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Mr. W. W. UpDeflraff, 

252) E- 25: a Street, 

Fruitvale, Calif. 

. .y 

/ OP 

C< P vN!A 















III. ADRIFT ......... 4O 

V. FIGHTING A NOR'-WESTER . . . . . 6 

VI. ON TRAMP . 77 

VII. BILLY . . 8l 



X. IN PRISON . .119 








viii Contents 






XXII. HOW I "RAN PROPS." ...... 308 





I WAS in Liverpool, with just a shilling in 
my pocket, wondering vaguely as to what 
I would do. It was in the beginning of 
January, and the day, though cold, was 
pleasant and bright. The clouds sailed 
along so beautifully, and looking up into 
them made me think of the strange lands 
I would like to visit. I was young and 
eager to see things. Here I was in 
Liverpool the key to the whole world. 
Surely I would find a ship to take me 
somewhere anywhere. There were 
thousands of them lying in the docks. 
I had walked miles and miles that day, 
looking at them, and occasionally asking 
to be taken in one of them. But the 
mates shook their heads when I told 


2 A Man Adrift 

them that I had never been to sea 
before. They wanted men who knew 
the work, they said. I was only a raw 
greenhorn, who would be in the way ! 

But still I felt that I would go some- 
how. Some chance or another would 
turn up. I had never seen ships before 
the morning of that day. But I had 
thought and dreamed of them ever since 
I was a lad. And now they seemed so 
beautiful to me, just like the pictures I 
had of them in my mind. They looked 
so calm and strange; their tall, straight 
masts and their furled sails and rigging 
looked so fit and beautiful. They had a 
curious air of travel and great distances. 
You felt that they had come from places 
a long way off, and that they were going to 
places a long way off. About them was 
something magical, fine, and strange. 

I was without friends and alone, but 
before me was the big, mysterious world. 
What it held for me I could not tell, and 
I hardly cared. My great desire was to 
see and feel and experience to meet new 
and strange phases. To live is a fine and 

Finding a Ship 3 

brave thing, even if you have neither a 
penny in your pocket nor a home nor 
friends. It is only the weakling and the 
coward who is afraid of life. 

The day wore on. And the red of the 
sun lay upon the broad Mersey, glowing 
up and throwing into odd relief the cross- 
ing boats. Soon the river was full of 
swiftly - rushing lights. Whistles and 
horns were blowing. I stood and 
watched till darkness had fully settled 
down. The life of the river was full of 
charm and mystery. Where were the 
vessels going, and what did they hold, 
and who commanded them ? Might not 
that big, slow-moving steamer yonder- 
full of lights that loomed calmly along, 
be going to the far-away Indies, or to 
China, or to Australia? And the sailing 
ship over there, that was being towed 
along by a tug-boat? Perhaps it was 
going round Cape Horn, or around the 
Cape of Good Hope, where tossed the 
Phantom Ship the ship on which was 
laid a curse till the Day of Judgment. 
When this sailing ship got outside into 

4 A Man Adrift 

the open water her sails would spread 
out like the wings of great, great birds. 
And the winds would carry her along 
over the great sea-waters. And at last 
she would come to a port in some bright 
land. And the sailors would then go 
ashore and see things that were wonder- 
ful and full of a curious beauty. My mind 
was fuJJ of these thoughts as I looked 
out upon the river. 

At last I turned away and walked tip 
towards the middle of the town. That 
night I would find a cheap place to sleep, 
and on the morrow I would look around 
again, and try and find a ship. As I went 
along a street I noticed a big coffee-house. 
In I walked, and for threepence I got a 
big mug of hot coffee and some thick 
slices of bread and butter. Now I had 
ninepence, and for sixpence of it I could 
get a bed that night. During the day I 
had noticed a lodging-house having a sign 
in the window which read to the effect that 
you could get a good bed there for six- 
pence. I would sleep there that night, 
and in the morning I would still have 

Finding a Ship 5 

threepence left for breakfast. Then I 
would set out again in my search for 
a ship. 

I was going along looking for the street 
I wanted the street in which was the 
lodging-house. It was a little hard to 
find. Suddenly, as I was turning a 
corner, a voice shouted out, "Hello!" 

I wheeled round and looked. A man 
was standing in front of me. " Come 
along/ 1 said he. " I want to talk to you." 

I hesitated a little ; and then I went 
on with him. After all I was strong and 
vigorous, and I was not afraid of things. 
I was well able to look out for myself. 

The man seemed to be half drunk 
His head was sunk down, his shoulders 
were bent, and his gait was slow and 
uncertain. " I could easily knock him 
over, if he attempted anything," I thought 
to myself. 

"Don't be afraid; I'm not going to do 
anything to you," he said, as if reading 
what was in my mind. 

" I don't see how you could," was my 

6 A Man Adrift 

" Neither do I," he said, with a laugh, 
as he looked me up and down. " But 
that isn't the point." He paused for a 
moment. "You want to go to sea!" he 
said suddenly. 

" How do you know ? " I asked. We 
had now come to a halt before a shop 
window, and I looked full into his face. 
It was a round face, with big, bleared 
eyes. Not an inviting face. There was 
something in it I couldn't understand. It 
was the face of a man who holds things 
back. "How do you know?" I asked 
him again. 

" Because I saw you down on the docks 
to-day. I saw you go aboard a ship." I 
looked at him in surprise. " If you want 
to go to sea," he said, slowly, " I can put 
you in the way of it. I can take you to 
a boarding-house where they will keep 
you till they find you a ship." 

" But will they keep me without money ? " 
I asked quickly, " for I have only nine- 
pence. And will they be sure to find me 
a ship?" 

" They will," he answered. " And here's 

Finding a Ship 7 

another thing I have to tell you. It's 
next to impossible for you to get a ship 
here in Liverpool without you are taken 
from a boarding-house. So the best 
thing you can do is to come along with 
me that is, if it's a ship you are looking 

I thought for a little. " Well, I will go 
with you," I said. " That is why I came 
to Liverpool to get a ship. It's a 
strange thing, though, that they have 
places where they keep a man for 
nothing, and then find him one." 

"It isn't so strange as it looks to you," 
said the man, with a laugh. " But you 
are green, you know, and you don't know 
the ropes. If you want to know the 
reason of it, it is because every man who 
ships gets an advance note for two 
pounds. This note isn't paid till the ship 
is a few days out at sea. You give this 
advance note to the boarding-house 
master. He keeps you and finds you an 
outfit, and after you are safely gone he 
gets the money. Now, do you under- 

8 A Man Adrift 

I did. It was all clear enough. I was 
lucky to fall so easily into the right way 
of things, I thought. Here was all the 
trouble taken right off my shoulders. I 
was sure of getting away. But I was a 
little puzzled, however, as to why a man 
who had never been to sea before should 
get an advance of two pounds. It struck 
me that perhaps sailors were scarce. But 
I thought it well not to inquire too 
closely into things. One must not look 
a gift-horse in the mouth. 

We were going back in the direction 
of the docks, and I was filled with joy 
at the thought that soon I would be on 
an outgoing vessel. 

Suddenly the man stopped, and 
pointed to a big public-house. " Let us 
go over there and get a drink," he said. 
" You tell me you have ninepence. In 
that case you might as well treat me for 
the trouble I'm taking on your account." 

To this I assented, as it seemed a 
reasonable request, and we went over 
to the public-house, where my guide re- 
freshed himself with "three of whisky," 

Finding a Ship 9 

while I took a glass of beer. The whisky 
seemed to warm his feelings towards me, 
and he asked me a lot of questions about 
myself. But I had little to tell him, for 
my life so far had been most unevent- 
ful. It had been dull and grey, like the 
town I had come from. The last place 
at which I had worked was a mechanic's 
shop, and I still wore my rust-stained 
slop and overalls. I had a woollen scarf 
round my neck, and wore a flat, greasy, 
peaked cap. I was just a young work- 
man who was going out into the world to 
seek his fortune. 

After we left the public-house he let 
some light into the mystery of a man 
being able to get an advance note of two 
pounds who had never been to sea before. 
Ships could not leave port without a 
certain complement of hands, he told me. 
The number was regulated by the tonnage 
of the vessel. And on the day of sailing 
there were usually one or two hands short 
It was then that the boarding-house 
master came forward with men he had 
picked up anyhow. Even though the men 

io A Man Adrift 

were not sailors, the law was complied 
with, and the ship was free to go. My 
guide was a " runner " for a boarding-house. 

We turned down a narrow street which 
ran into the Docks. " Murphy's board- 
ing-house is over there," said the man, 
pointing. We walked across the road to 
it, and he gave three knocks on the door. 
A girl let us in without saying a word. 
" Is Murphy in ?" he asked her. She did 
not reply, but pointed to a door at the 
end of a passage. He walked to it, and 
pushed it open, bidding me follow him. 
The room we entered was rather a large 
one, and there were four men in it sitting 
before a big fire. An oil lamp stood on 
the mantel, throwing out a small light. 
One of the men rose up and turned round. 
" Murphy," said my guide, addressing him, 
" here's a man for you." Murphy looked 
at me with no particular expression in his 
eyes, and said, " All right, let him sit 
down." Then he turned towards the fire 
again. He was a man about fifty, with 
a dark beard and a pale, hard-looking face. 

My guide left us, after shaking hands 

Finding a Ship n 

with me, and I began quietly to study 
the other men. They were evidently in 
something like the same circumstances 
as myself. They were silent when I 
came in, and they remained silent. It 
was a strange scene. One would have 
thought that the men were waiting to be 
led out to undergo some awful experience. 
There was an air of subdued, sad expec- 
tancy about them. And for the first time 
that day I began to feel depressed. The 
travel-pictures in my mind became dulled. 
Perhaps, after all, I had made a mistake 
in trying to go out into the world ! And 
doubts began to assail me. Was this the 
right way to go about getting a ship ? 
Wouldn't it have been better to have kept 
on asking the mates for a berth myself? 

All at once Murphy got up and left 
us without saying a word. And then we 
gradually began to talk. Soon I found 
that my first surmise was right. The 
men I was amongst were not sailors. 
They were simply working-men who 
wanted to get out to other parts of the 
world. This was the only way they could 

12 A Man Adrift 

manage it, for they had no money. One 
of them, a young fellow from the country, 
spoke of the difficulties of getting work 
in England. He hardly liked the idea of 
facing the ocean. He had heard that 
sailoring was a hard life that men were 
often struck and ill-used. But there was 
nothing else for it. And the others 
talked in a like strain. Times were hard : 
but the real reason they were here was 
because they were impelled to move by 
the wandering instinct that is more or 
less strong in every human being an 
instinct inherited from a far, dim past, 
when men wandered over the face of the 
earth as hunters. Living through the 
dull grind of monotonous labour had 
quickened it, and brought it to the full 
in the men with whom I was now talking. 
To work day after day, month after 
month, and year after year in the same 
place and at the same thing is madden- 
ing. A man either becomes a clod or 
dangerously thoughtful. And when I 
began to think of the work I had been 
doing for the last four years, my spirits 

Finding a Ship 13 

rose again. I was glad to be on the eve 
of any change, however hard it might 
turn out to be. I was willing to dare or 
go through anything. And the pictures 
and dreams of the morning when I was 
going from ship to ship came back to 
me. Things would turn out all right, 

Murphy came back after an hour or 
so, and showed the four of us up to the 
room where we were to pass the night. 
There were some sacks filled with straw 
for us to lie on, but there were no 
blankets. We had to make the best of 
it by putting off our coats and covering 
ourselves up with them as well as we 
could. The night was very cold, but I 
hardly minded it much. I was thinking 
of what might happen on the morrow. 

When we came down in the morning 
we got some hot coffee, and a two-pound 
loaf of bread was divided amongst us. 
Then we sat and talked till the middle 
of the day. At about one o'clock Murphy 
came in and beckoned to me. He was 
a man who did not waste words, this 

14 A Man Adrift 

Murphy. He came at once to the point. 
"Off with your slop and overalls," he 
said. " You look too much like a 
mechanic.' 1 I obeyed him. Then he 
motioned for me to follow him out. 
There was a sailor's bag lying at the 
end of the passage. " Take it, and come 
along," he said again. " Your outfit's in 
it." I picked it up. It was very light 
and easy to carry. 

We were soon going along the docks. 
It was a day like the day before bright 
and clear. "The vessel I'm going to put 
you on," said Murphy, "is going round 
Cape Horn to Callao." He then let 
me know it was a steamer, and he in- 
structed me to tell the mate or the 
purser to make the advance note out to 
him when I signed as able seaman. He 
gave me his full name on a piece of 
paper, so that there would be no mistake. 
I told him I didn't like to sign as an 
able seaman, for I had never been to 
sea before. But he informed me that if 
I didn't sign as an A.B. I couldn't go 
at all. "Besides, there's no sailorising 

Finding a Ship 15 

to be done aboard a steamer," he said 
in conclusion. 

When we got to the steamer, however, 
fate was against me. They had got a 
man ten minutes before. So Murphy and 
I trudged back again to the boarding- 

But the next day I was luckier. 
Murphy shipped me, along with two of 
the others, on the John Gough, a big 
steamer bound for Philadelphia. She 
made the trip across in from twelve to 
fourteen days. She carried freight and 
some passengers. When we were aboard, 
the bo'sun a stockily-built man with a 
red face joked Murphy about his dry- 
land sailors and the kind of outfit he 
sent them to sea with. " What have you 
put in their bags?" he asked. But 
Murphy took it calmly. Such things had 
been said to him before. 

The articles were signed, Murphy had 
gone ashore with the advance notes, and 
I was lined up for muster with the rest 
of the crew. We were dismissed after 
the mate had inspected us, and I was 

1 6 A Man Adrift 

going aft for the fo'castle. Both ends 
of the ship were the same to my bewil- 
dered eye. A sailor stopped me. " That 
way, Greeny," he said, pointing forward. 
" Go on, you damned Paddy West, dry- 
land sailor ! " 

I looked at him, but said nothing. 
Then I walked forward. I cared little 
for what any of them said to me. I 
would soon get to know my way about. 
And I was happy. My dream was 
realised. I was actually going. I had 
found a ship! 


WE were running swiftly through the 
smooth river. Liverpool was fading off 
into the distance, and I was wondering 
by what turn of chance I should ever see 
it again. I had no desire to go back, 
but the thought worked idly through my 
mind as I turned and looked off over the 
side of the great vessel. At this time I 
was standing on the forward deck with 
the sailors. We were grouped up in 
front of the two bo'suns, who were por- 
tioning us off into watches. It fell to 
my lot to be told off for the first bo'sun's 
watch the port watch. He was the red- 
faced man who had joked Murphy about 
the outfit he was sending me to sea with. 
The outfit, however, was no joke as far 

as I was concerned, for Murphy had put 

1 8 A Man Adrift 

neither oil-skins nor sea-boots into my 
bag. Indeed, there was hardly anything 
in it that was serviceable for the crossing 
of the North Atlantic Ocean in mid- 
winter. I did not know this at the 
time, but a sailor informed me of it with 
much scorn and epithet, as he critically 
watched me unpacking my bag into my 
bunk in the fo'castle. I was hardly 
fascinated with his way of putting truths, 
but I felt that the time was scarcely 
ripe for objecting. Besides, I was so 
filled with the thought of being actually 
aboard a ship that what he said didn't 
trouble me much. 

It had just gone two bells in the first 
dog-watch (five o'clock in the afternoon) 
when the word came for us to shake 
out the foresail. What shaking out the 
foresail meant I had not the faintest 
notion. But I got ready to do some- 
thing or other. A couple of sailors 
jumped up into the fore -shrouds and 
climbed like cats up the rigging. I 
paused a little, and then I too jumped 
up into the shrouds, and was up alongside 

My First Voyage 19 

them in no time. Though I had never 
been to sea, I was a good climber, and 
I saw at a glance that at least there were 
sure hand-holds and foot-holds about a 
ship. It was rather unfortunate my going 
up as I did, however, for it <made the 
bo'sun and the rest of the watch think 
that I knew my work as a sailor. 

" Lay out on the yard there," said the 
man to whom I was near in the rigging. 
This puzzled me altogether. " Where?" 
I asked. He swore, and asked me what 
I meant by coming aloft when I didn't 
know my duty. I did not reply to this, 
but stopped where I was and watched. 
By this time six or seven men had got 
up, and were spreading themselves out 
on the yard on both sides of the mast. 
I now* grasped what was meant. The 
idea was to loosen the close-furled sail. 
Quickly I got out along the foot-rope 
with the rest of them, and began to tug 
at the rope that fastened down the sail 
to the yard. " Pass the gasket," said the 
fellow alongside me. Again I was 
puzzled. "That thing in your hand," he 

2O A Man Adrift 

added with a grin. He meant the rope 
I had been tugging at, which in the 
meantime had been taken from round 
the sail and passed from hand to hand 
till it had reached me. I passed it to 
him, and then we all got down on deck. 
It was my first lesson in sailoring. 

And as I stood on deck with the rest 
of them I felt that I had emerged from 
my first trial with at least some success. 
Afterwards I found out that it was most 
unusual for a " Paddy West " sailor to go 
up aloft at all. Invariably he stuck to 
the deck like wax. 

At the end of the first dog-watch six 
o'clock we went into the fo'castle to 
have supper, and then I learned why it 
was that a man such as myself was called 
a "Paddy West" sailor. It seemed that 
one Paddy West, of Liveroool, a boarding- 
master, was notorious for shipping green 
hands as able seamen. Hence the nick- 
name. Murphy, who had shipped me, 
was only one of the smaller fry of these 
villainous boarding-masters. But Paddy 
West had dignified the calling with his 

My First Voyage 21 

name. All sorts of shady and wonderful 
stories were current concerning him. He 
had sent "greenies" to sea with bags 
filled with straw for an outfit and so on. 

It was at supper in the fo'castle that 
I began to realise that shipping as an 
able seaman when you didn't know the 
work might not turn out to be altogether 
pleasant. I saw that the regular sailors 
had a strong animus against the men 
who did it. And there was a good reason 
for this feeling. They had to do the 
work of these useless men. The sailors 
had not enough sense of the relation of 
things to grasp the fact that the real 
fault lay with the shipping companies. 
They only saw and knew of men who 
had come aboard under false pretences. 
And, as they felt they were wronged, it 
was only human for them to make it as 
hot for these men as possible. 

And they did so. One of them shoved 
me aside when I reached forward to take 
some food from the table. "Don't get 
in a sailorman's way ! " he exclaimed, 
roughly. I turned quickly round to him, 

22 A Man Adrift 

and would have got very much more in 
his way, but the strangeness of the place 
and surroundings had a sort of quietening 
effect on me. Anyway, I could wait. 
It seemed that the law of the fo'castle 
was that the sailors should eat before the 
green hands. 

The supper consisted of fresh boiled 
beef, potatoes, soft bread and butter, and 
biscuits and tea. There was enough for 
everybody, for there was always plenty 
of food on an Atlantic liner. It wasn't 
the same as it was on a deep-water ship, 
where you got nothing but your pound 
and your pint. Here it was plenty for 

After supper came yarns about all the 
lands and all the waters of the world. 
The talk was -the most interesting I had 
ever heard. I listened breathlessly. 
Here were men who had been every- 
where, and my respect for them grew to 
such a pitch that I almost forgot to think 
about the sailor who had shoved me aside 
roughly. They talked in such an easy 
way about being in places thousands of 

My First Voyage 23 

miles apart. " When I was in Calcutta," 
one of them would say, and then the same 
man would perhaps the next moment say : 
" Yes, I shipped with him on a barque 
out of 'Frisco." Or another fellow would 
say, " He was combing the beach in 
Honolulu when I came across him." The 
whole world and its waters had been 
covered by these few rough men in the 
fo'castle. Listening to them filled me 
with ambition to do likewise. At last I 
felt that I had found my true vocation 
to go on always wandering from place to 

One of them suddenly noticed me 
listening eagerly. " Look at the dry-land 
sailor," he shouted, with a laugh. And 
then came the yarns about Paddy West. 

After eight bells I was out again with 
the watch on deck. The ship was still 
running smoothly. She had not yet got 
out into the broken water. 

The sensation of being on a great 
steamship when she is running swiftly 
through smooth water is magical. You 
feel as if you were steadily flying through 

24 A Man Adrift 

space. There is neither jar, nor toss, 
nor jerk. You hear nothing but the faint 
rumble of the easily-working engines. 


TOWARDS midnight we were out in the 
broken water. We were meeting the 
swells, and the vessel began to heave, 
and the wind got up. Then the word 
came for us to brace things up before 
turning in at eight bells. So we went 
round the ship, loosing the down-hauls, 
and hauling each halyard or brace tight 
in turn. The foremost man would slip 
the halyard from off the belaying pin, 
pay it out behind him, and, as four or 
five of us grabbed it, he would give out 
the shanty or song. We would haul as 
we sang, and haul and haul till the bo'sun, 
who stood off watching the sail, blew on 
his pipe for us to stop. At this the 
foremost man would spring forward and 
bend up the halyard on to the belaying 
pin. When everything was braced up, 
I was told off with another man to go 

My First Voyage 25 

around the ship and coil down the sheets 
and halyards. 

Eight bells rang out ; the watch below 
came up on deck to relieve us ; and we 
went forward to the fo' castle. I was be- 
ginning to feel sick. Sea-sickness had 
not entered into my calculations when I 
was looking for a ship in Liverpool. But 
I fought hard against it. And when I got 
to my bunk and lay flat on my back, I 
began to feel better. I would soon get 
over it, I thought. 

The day had been a long one, and I 
was very tired. I tried to think over all 
that had happened, but I could not con- 
nect one thing with another. A confused 
jumble of pictures and happenings was 
passing through my mind. Now Murphy 
was bringing me aboard now I was 
walking along the docks now I was 
hauling on the halyards now I could see 
the wideness and the far reach of the sea 
the sea I had always dreamed of. The 
stars were reflected in it. The soft moon- 
light was shining upon it. How beautiful 
and magical it looked, this sea ! And 

26 A Man Adrift 

then a face came near to mine, a curious, 
strange face. 

I fell asleep. 

Hardly was I asleep when a hand was 
on my shoulder. " Turn out ! Turn out ! " 
shouted a voice. " It's eight bells ! Turn 
out ! " I slowly got up, and got into my 
clothes as well as I could. The ship was 
now heaving more than ever, and I 
stumbled heavily against a stanchion. 
My head was light, and when I took a 
step it seemed as if my body had no 
weight. But I managed to scramble on 
deck somehow. Here I felt a little better 
cold, raw salt air revived me. But when 
I staggered aft with the rest of the watch, 
I began to feel worse. When *I took a 
step I could not feel my feet. I was 
horribly sea-sick. The ship seemed to me 
to be going all ways at once. I would 
have given anything to have been able 
to lie down in my bunk. But this was 
not to be thought of in a man who had 
shipped before the mast. I had signed 
as an able seaman as one who was able 
to steer, splice, box the compass, and do 

My First Voyage 27 

other shipmanlike things. And here was 
I as useless as a log. The thought of it 
added to my misery. 

I was shown scant sympathy by my 
mates on watch. They acted impatiently 
and brutally towards me. And this was 
hardly to be wondered at, for they had 
to take upon themselves my share of the 
work. I had come aboard under false 

How I got through that watch I never 
knew. I remember falling down, and one 
of the men kicking me. I could not, of 
course, do anything back, but I turned 
round so as to see his face, and keep it 
well in my mind. The moon at this time 
was shining brightly. This man had 
kicked me, but there was nothing for it 
but to wait my time. There was no use 
of repining, or, indeed, of saying any- 
thing while I was powerless. And not 
only was I powerless in body, but my 
will was powerless, too. I felt myself 
getting afraid. I began to be a 

I was sick for two days and a half, 

28 A Man Adrift 

during which time I had to do my four 
hours on and off with the rest of the 
watch. All that time I could eat nothing, 
and I got very weak indeed. The man 
who kicked me was especially brutal. 
Some time after that he struck me in the 
face, blackening my eye. I could hardly 
stand up at the time, but I looked him 
steadily in the eyes, and said: "You 
shouldn't hit a sick man. Besides, this 
sick man will get well." 

And gradually I got well. I believe 
thinking of this man helped to cure me. 
Whenever I saw him I smiled. When- 
ever I met him I looked straight in his 
face. And as I felt the power coming 
back to my limbs I was filled with joy. 
The time would soon come! 

At about the sixth day out, when we 
were nearly half way across the ocean, I 
was thoroughly used to the motion of the 
vessel, though, of course, I knew very 
little of the work. Still, I was beginning 
to be of use, for I was quick, and I could 
haul powerfully on the halyards and 
braces. The strong air of the ocean was 

My First Voyage 29 

putting a vigour of life into me such as 
I had never felt before. It was a wonder- 
ful sensation, after being shut up all one's 
life in a dull, sodden, black town, to be 
out in this vast open of moving waters. 
It was fine to feel the clean, fresh, sharp 
wind striking full into the face. 

On the seventh day out I felt fit for 
anything, and I thought the time had 
now come for me to settle matters with 
the sailor who had struck me when I was 
sick. It was our watch below in the 
fo'castle, and I noticed him standing near 
his bunk. My eye was still sore and 
black from the blow, and when I thought 
of it I smiled to myself. I had him now. 
He was there, and I would see what he 
was made of. I looked carefully over 
him, noting where and how I would hit 
him. I never thought that he might get 
the better of me. I just felt that I could 
annihilate him. I would like to kill him 
and pitch him overboard, I thought. 
Even though a man did not know his 
work, striking him when he was helpless 
was no way to right things. And the 

30 A Man Adrift 

shame of the blow swept through me as 
I walked up to him and said : 

"You struck me when I was sick and 
not able to do anything back. Now's 
your time to strike me again." 

The rest of the watch, who were sitting 
about talking, looked at us, and became 
quiet. Something was going to happen! 
It was a rare thing for a green hand 
to talk in such a way to a sailor. " And 
you kicked me, too, when I was sick," I 
said again to him, keeping my eye fixed 
on his eye. " Come on. Don't be afraid." 
I gave him a push with my open hand, 
and backed quickly a couple of paces. 

He said nothing, but came for me. I 
backed again it was a big fo'castle and 
then I sank myself down a little to the 
left and reached out. It was a feint. 
And as he followed over on that side, I 
turned to the right like lightning jumped 
and landed my fist heavily on the side 
of his face. The ship chanced to be 
lurching towards me at the instant I 
struck, making the blow more effective. 
He staggered against the side of a bunk 

My First Voyage 31 

and before he knew where he was I was 
right close up to him, pounding him in 
the face and ribs. The first blow had 
knocked him stupid, and he was not able 
to give me any return. Besides, I was 
too quick for him. 

And now he was down in a heap, his 
face all over blood. I dragged him up 
by the collar, and asked him if he had 
had enough. He had ! Dropping him 
again, I turned to the rest of the watch 
who were all eyes and said quietly, 
" I'll fight the best man in this watch." 
There was no response. 


AFTER all, there was not much real 
sailoring to be done aboard this steamer. 
The main work was to keep everything 
clean, to holystone decks, polish brass 
work, and keep the paint free from dust. 
It is astonishing how dust collects at sea. 
The steering was done by four quarter- 
masters, and four men were selected for 
the lookout. So for all practical purposes 

32 A Man Adrift 

I was as good a steamship sailor as any- 
one else. I could push a holystone with 
the best of them no great feat after all. 
And I could haul strongly on halyards 
and braces. Usually the sails were only 
put on the vessel to keep her steady in 
heavy weather, or when the wind was 
blowing from the wrong quarter. 

One night at twelve o'clock a short 
hurricane came down upon us. I'll never 
forget that night to the end of my life. 
It suddenly became pitch black. The 
moon and stars, which had been shining 
clearly a moment before, were blotted 
out. There was nothing for the watch 
on deck to do but to grope slowly along 
like blind men. And then the hurricane 
dropped on us. It was as if the sea and 
the heavens and the thunders and the 
great ship suddenly became one in a 
horrible, indescribable uproar. And the 
wind came with such fury and force that 
it drove sensation from the body and 
thought from the brain. We could do 
nothing but gasp and hold on to some- 
thing with the death-clutch, and bend 

My First Voyage 33 

down our heads so as to get a chance to 
breathe, for the force of the wind striking 
a man in the face would choke him. And 
if he let go what he was clutching on to, 
he would be dashed down. 

All this was going on in blind dark- 
ness. I was gasping and shrinking and 
clutching. The end of things had come ! 
Immense seas were sweeping over the 
ship. I was so stunned that I did not 
even feel fear. I was just a blind, 
clutching thing, from which sensation 
had been suddenly driven. 

All at once the hurricane died down. 
Its end was nearly as sudden as its be- 
ginning. It had only lasted a few 
minutes. And the stars and moon came 
out again, shining clearly. But the seas 
were with us the gigantic, sweeping, 
awful seas. The hurricane had swept 
out into the distance a flying, tre- 
mendous, shapeless thing of destruction. 

All through the next day we strained 
through these terrible seas as if we 
were following in the wake of the hurri- 
cane. The forward-deck had become 

34 A Man Adrift 

most dangerous. One had to wait amid- 
ships at the beginning of the main-deck 
and watch for the instant when the ship 
settled down and became steady. Then 
was the time to make the dash along the 
deck for the fo'castle. The ship only re- 
mained steady for three or four seconds, and 
if one waited too long the sea would again 
be thundering over the deck. If a man were 
caught in it, he would be swept overboard. 
And once overboard, he could never be got 
again. No boat could be sent after him. 

I had the bad luck to be caught in 
one of these seas. I had just come from 
the cook's galley with a kid full of 
potatoes and meat for the watch's 
supper. I waited amidships at the main 
deck for the vessel to steady herself 
before I made my dash forward for 
the fo'castle. As she steadied, I dashed 
along the fore-deck, but I had hardly 
got three-parts of the way when I 
slipped down. I got up, but I slipped 
again, and this time, before I could 
recover myself, the sea was upon me. 
Where the kid and potatoes and meat 

My First Voyage 35 

went to I don't know, but I was picked 
up and swept against the foremast as 
if I were a cork. I flung out my arms 
and clutched the fore-halyard for my life. 
And I twined my legs, too, around the 
big, stiff rope. There I stuck. But 
again a sea thundered over the deck. 
It struck me, and washed me from my 
clutch on the halyard as if I were but a 
feather that was lying against it. The 
awful force of the water did not strike 
in a straight direction, but it seemed to 
whirl in a sort of circle, spinning me 
round and round like a top. Strangely 
enough, I kept my senses, though I felt 
that I must be overboard. The water 
was boiling and fighting over and around 
me, when suddenly I struck against some- 
thing hard. Then the next instant I was 
heaved up clear out of the water, and I 
found, to my utter surprise, that I was 
still on board. By a miracle I had been 
swept into the lee scupper, and kept there 
I don't know how. I crawled down into 
the fo 'castle. I was glad to be alive. 
Many a poor fellow has met his death 

36 A Man Adrift 

by being caught and carried overboard 
in a heavy sea. Occasionally the sailors 
used to tell of it in their watch below. 
How poor Tom was carried off, and never 
got again, in a big blow as they were 
rounding the Horn, or how poor Bill 
was gone overboard an hour before he 
was missed at all ! There was not a 
sailor in the fo'castle who had not an 
actual first-hand knowledge of some 
such sad experience. Some told of 
chums who had gone out suddenly into 
violent death. Lowering a boat for a 
man was rarely ever of use in rough 
weather, though a boat was always got 
out if it were humanly possible. In the 
winter time the North Atlantic, or the 
Western Ocean, as the sailors called it, 
was of all the oceans of the world the 
most dangerous and ugly in this respect. 
Squalls and short hurricanes were in- 
cessantly springing up in it. And it was 
so terribly cold. In fact, in the winter 
time some sailors would not ship for a 
trip across it at any price. 

At last we were off the banks of New- 

My First Voyage 37 

foundland. The weather had moderated, 
and the fogs which usually lie here in 
the winter had lifted. It was a relief 
to feel the vessel running with some- 
thing like smoothness after its heaving 
and stressing through the heavy weather. 
It had grown much colder ; the halyards 
and braces were bedded in ice. But I 
did not mind that much, for one of the 
sailors had given me some socks and 
mittens ; and the bo'sun had given me 
an old pea-jacket that was very warm. 
My fight with the sailor had created a 
favourable impression on my behalf. I 
was green, they said, but still I must 
have something in me, and in time I 
would make a good sailor-man ! 

We first sighted land one morning at 
sunrise. It came up on the horizon away 
off on the port-bow. We were holy 
stoning decks at the time, and one 
of the sailors said to me : " There's 
America ! " I looked at the low-lying, 
dark line. The voyage would soon be 
over now! The thought filled me with 
joy, but with the joy was a tinge of regret 

38 A Man Adrift 

at leaving the ship. I was getting used 
to it. It was so fine to feel the press 
of the great, strong winds, to see the 
vast, heaving stretch of the ocean. There 
were times when it brought terror, but 
still I loved it. It appealed to something 
that was in my blood to some instinct I 
had inherited. The great, free ocean ! 

And here was the land ! one of the 
lands I had dreamed of when I was a 
boy. It was becoming clearer and 
clearer, this land that at first crept up 
on the horizon as a faint, dark line. 

It was cold, but the morning was most 
beautiful. The sky was so blue and 
clear, and the sun, which was well up 
now, was shining with a searching, 
northern softness. The strange, clear 
beauty of the morning, and the sight of 
the land off in the distance, brought to 
me a moment of curious, intense feeling. 
It was a higher and more acute feeling 
than that of happiness. In it was sad- 
ness and joy and everything. It was as 
if I had suddenly realised in this scene 
of ocean, air, and land all the longings 

My First Voyage 39 

and wishes of my life. I had come to 
it through suffering. I was but a com- 
mon hand working on the ship, but to 
me came this glorious, strange moment. 

The next day and the day after 
that we ran along favoured with calm 
weather. The voyage was nearing its 
close. And soon the pilot came aboard, 
and then in a few hours we were grind- 
ing, grinding our way through the thick 
floating ice of the Delaware River. Off 
from the bank of the river stretched a 
country that was winter-bound. It was 
cold and hard-looking, this country, but 
I was glad to see it. For who could tell 
what it held in store for me? 

And now we were tied up to the wharf. 
We were in Philadelphia. The voyage 
was over. Busy men were rushing about 
shouting English in a curious flat accent. 

The next morning I left the ship for 
good. It was on a Sunday. And as I 
walked through the streets of Philadel- 
phia I felt strong and hopeful, though 
I had not a penny in my pocket. A 
new world was before me. 


THE magic of a great town ! 

A man goes into it when he is hard up 
and lonely and wearing shabby clothes, 
and he is touched with the general move- 
ment, and the ever-passing crowds and 
the bright, tempting displays in the shop 
windows, and the long, clean streets. 
The curious, mighty magnetism of the 
town possesses him. He has been off 
in small, lonesome places, looking for 
work, or he has been working his way 
hither and thither, making a bare exist- 
ence by the doing of stray, odd jobs. Or 
he may have been going along over bare, 
winding country roads that seemed to 
go on without end for ever. He has 
been so long communing with himself 
that he feels the need of contact with 
other human beings. He wishes to be 
near people and to hear their voices, even 
if he may not speak to them. The people 

Adrift 41 

he has seen off from the town have been 
but stray and passing, even as himself. 
Lone ships that move on and on till they 
are lost in the dread, mysterious distance. 

Men who are adrift. 

It may be that a man has come from 
some foreign place where things have 
gone hard with him. He is now ap- 
proaching the great town of his native 
land, and he is thrilled, for here at last 
is something that is akin to him. Vague 
though it be, this kinship has for him a 
warmth and a sense of rest. The people 
who knew him once may be dead or 
gone, or may not know him. But still 
there is for him the town. The town 
that was here long, long before him ; the 
town that will last long, long after he 
has crumbled and gone to dust. The 
town that is his town, even as it is the 
town of him who is fine and great. 

Or it may be that a man is one who 
may not go back again to his native 
place. Now he is approaching a strange 
townbut still a town. He is glad to 
get to it, even though he be penniless. 

42 A Man Adrift 

Even though he must face strangers. 
How glad he will be to see the spires of 
its churches arising in the distance! 
How glad he will be to hear, far away, 
the faint, faint sound of its mighty life. 
It is far off, this town but he is coming 
to it! He is coming to it. 

And who knows what chance may do 
for him ? Who knows what may happen 
to him through the magic of circum- 
stance ? He may, in a street, find a 
purse of gold. Then he will go and 
buy himself a good dinner, and new, fine 
clothes. He will stretch himself in the 
fulness of the pleasure of life. In the 
life of the town ! Yes, give him the 
town! The town where no one knows 
him where no one knows of what he 
has done where he may begin a new 
life where fortune may await him. And > 
he goes on with firm stride. Soon he will 
see the spires arising in the distance. 

The magic of a great town! 


AFTER many days tramping I found my- 
self in the city of Baltimore. Here I 
shipped on an oyster-boat to dredge for 
oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The 
wages were fifteen dollars a month, and 
one had to ship for a month at least. 
And you were bound by the same laws 
and rules that you would be bound by if 
you shipped on a deep-water vessel that 
was going to round the Horn "Cape 
Stiff," as the sailors call it. You were 
the captain's machine his slave. He 
had power to strike or shoot you if he 
thought it necessary. 

I shipped on a small schooner, and 
sailed down the bay. 

On the way down to the dredging 
grounds we had nothing to do but to 
sail the schooner, which was an easy 

44 A Man Adrift 

task, as there were, all told, ten men 
aboard. It took us two days to get 
down, on account of head winds. 

A word about the dredging outfit of our 
schooner. She had two crab-winches 
amidships on the port and starboard 
sides for winding in the dredges when 
they had filled with oysters. It took 
four men to a winch. Fastened to a 
stout, fifteen-fathom rope, a dredge lay 
on either side near the gunwale. In 
working time these were put in readi- 
ness to be heaved overboard at a word 
from the captain, who then steered the 
boat The gunwales were cut away, and 
rollers put on a level with the planking 
of the deck, so as to allow the dredges 
to pass easily. The dredge was trian- 
gular in shape, and was simply a strong 
iron frame with a steel chain bag pend- 
ing from the large end. Across the 
mouth of the bag was a steel bar, in 
which was a row of long, sharp teeth. 
These scraped in the oysters as the 
dredge dragged over the bed. Each 
man was armed with a " culling hammer," 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 45 

a hammer with a long, narrow head and 
a long shaft, which he used for breaking 
off extra shells that were stuck to the 
oysters, and for separating the oysters 
from the loose shells when the contents 
of the dredge were dumped on deck. 

One day's work was much the same 
as another. 

About an hour before dawn, the cook, 
who lived aft with the captain in the 
cabin, would come forward to the 
fo'castle, where we slept, huddled to- 
gether like rats, and inform us that the 
time had arrived for us to sally forth to 
toil. Reluctantly and unjoyfully, we 
would arise at the sound of the cook's 
voice and put on our clothes that is, 
if we had been warm enough the night 
before to take them off. Blankets were 
scarce. The captain didn't care whether 
we froze to death or not. All he cared 
for was to get work out of us. 

After creeping shiveringly out of the 
manhole and on to the deck, our first 
job was to haul up the anchor and loose 
the sails. We anchored every night in 

46 A Man Adrift 

any small bay or cove that came nearest 
or handiest. Getting up the anchor was 
always a terrible job, because of the raw, 
damp winter wind which was usually 
blowing before daylight. 

"Breakfast!" the cook would shout, 
and one by one we would file into the 
cabin to eat. 

Whilst breakfast, which usually con- 
sisted of codfish-hash, bread, and coffee, 
was being doled out in detail, the schooner 
would be making all speed for the dredg- 
ing ground. Arrived there, we would 
get to our places at the winches. 

" Heave ! " from the captain at the 
wheel, and splash ! would go both dredges 
simultaneously, as a man from either 
side heaved them overboard. The speed 
of the schooner checked considerably as 
the dredges dragged over the oyster bed, 
gradually filling with oysters, which were 
scraped into the chain bags by the tooth- 

"Wind!" the captain would command 
when the dredges had passed over the 
whole width of the bed. 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 47 

With a will the whole of us would 
suddenly bend our strength upon the 
handles of the winches, and wind with 
all our might and main. During the 
winding the schooner would be tossing 
about like a feather and shipping seas. 
It is well to remark for the benefit of 
those who don't know that the short 
choppy seas of a shallow bay are harder 
to contend with than are the gigantic, 
awful swells that are to be met with in 
mid - ocean. Proportionately, there are 
more ships lost in the shallow, choppy 
waters of the North Sea than anywhere 

Oh, the terror of that awful winding! 
I'd sooner help to take in frozen sails in 
a gale off Cape Horn. Every nerve, 
muscle, and breath was strained to the 
tightest possible tension. If a man slacked 
up the least bit it was instantly felt by the 
rest. All had to fuse their strength into 
one desperate whole. The cold seas 
washed us from head to foot, but in the 
horrible strain we didn't notice it. Wind ! 
wind ! wind ! Would the internal strain 

48 A Man Adrift 

never cease ? It seemed as if every fibre 
in a man were cracking. I had never 
felt anything like it before nor have I 
since, though I have done the hardest and 
roughest sort of labouring. 

Up! up! At last the necks of the 
dredges appeared above the gunwale 
rollers. Up ! up ! and they were on deck, 
and their contents dumped out in a heap. 
Then we fell on our knees and com- 
menced to separate as quickly as pos- 
sible the oysters from the loose shells, 
flinging the oysters behind us to form a 
pile. Any extra shells that were sticking 
to them we broke off with our " culling 
hammers." As soon as we had got all 
the oysters out of the heap we quickly 
shovelled the loose shells, the stones, and 
the seaweed overboard. " Culling," as we 
called the picking out of the oysters, was 
a soft of rest after the terror of the wind- 
ing. By the time we had got out all the 
oysters, or, usually, a little before it, the 
captain had put the boat about so as 
to cross the oyster bed again and was 
ready to give the word to heave the 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 49 

dredges overboard. Thus we never got a 
real breathing spell. 

Again would corr.e the terrible winding, 
and again would come the culling. 

This awful work would continue with- 
out a break up to sundown, barring a few 
moments we got to snatch a bite of food. 
At sundown we made fast the dredges, 
washed up the deck, and made for the 
nearest cove or harbour. Arriving there, 
we let go the anchor, and took in and 
furled the sails. After that came supper, 
and then we filed, wet, weary, and de- 
jected, into the fo'castle. The day was 


STILL, there were fine moments in the 
life, as there are fine moments in all 
lives, however sad or hard they may be. 
It was fine to stand on the foredeck of 
the little schooner and feel her rushing 
towards the harbour when our day's work 
was done. It gave one a sense of rest, a 

sense of peace. The jib of the schooner 

50 A Man Adrift 

stood out like the wing of a giant bat. 
I used to think and wonder about many 
things then. I used to wonder how long 
I would be a dredger. Though the life 
was hard, still in a sort of a way it ap- 
pealed to me. Being faced with grim, 
iron facts has a charm of its own. 

The dredgers had a saying that if you 
ever once got the dredging-mud on you 
you would always come back to it again. 
And, indeed, there were fellows who had 
been at it years and years. At the be- 
ginning of every oyster season they would 
turn up in Baltimore, and greet each 
other, and compare notes as to what they 
had been doing since the last season. 

Often there were black tragedies in 
the life. Bodies of men were found 
floating in the Bay. They had been 
murdered and pitched overboard by the 
captains and mates. 

As a rule, the captains were a lot 
of brutal bullies. If a man didn't have 
the fighting instinct strong in him he 
was very apt to get knocked about If 
you sailed down the Bay with some 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 51 

captains you had to be ready to go 
the whole length of the rope. You 
had to be ready to out with your 
sheath-knife and give the whole blade 
of it into the mate or captain who 
offered to strike you. In no other 
way could you keep up your style as 
a man. Fighting back with your fists 
wouldn't be worth a rap. You would 
be knocked flat with the butt of a 
revolver, and like enough get the 
life kicked out of you. Some captains 
used to have loaded revolvers lying 
within grasp while the men were 
actually working over the oyster bed. 
There were laws, to be sure, against 
the ill-using and killing of men, but 
the laws didn't work. 

A word as to the way we used to 
get our food. First the captain and 
the mate would eat. They, of course, 
would have clean plates and clean knives 
and forks. When they had finished eat- 
ing, two of the men would be called in. 
and the cook would ladle out the food 
for them on to the plates that the 

52 A Man Adrift 

captain and the mate had just used. 
When these men had finished, two 
others would be called in ; and so on, 
till every one on board had eaten. 
During the whole course of the meal 
the two plates and the knives and forks 
would not be washed. You had to eat 
from the dirty plate of another man, or 
two other men, or four other men, as 
the case may be. If you were out of 
favour with the captain, you were kept 
till the last. The idea was to take up 
as little time as possible in eating, and 
to save the cook trouble. 

I remember getting into a row over 
this custom on one boat I was on. The 
cook was called Scotty. He was a mean- 
looking little sailor man, with a scarred 
face, and hard eyes. He was the captain's 
toady. But for all that, he was a stout, 
hard little block of a fellow, who would 
fight till he dropped. For some reason or 
another, he didn't like me, and I didn't 
like him. We used to scowl at each other 
now and then. One morning I came aft 
into the cabin for breakfast I believe I 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 53 

was one of the last two men and sud- 
denly a sense of revolt filled me at the 
sight of the dirty plate I had to eat off. 
Why should I be a dog any more, I 
thought ? Why shouldn't I have a clean 
plate like a man? I turned to Scotty, 
who stood scowling at me, and I asked 
him roughly why he didn't give me a 
clean plate. Scotty was so surprised at 
my asking this that the scowl left his 
face. He was dumfounded. It was as 
if a dog had spoken. Scotty lived aft 
with the captain in the cabin, while I 
was only an' ordinary dredger, who lived 
forward in the forepeak. The cheek of 
my asking for a clean plate was some- 
thing unspeakable. And rage took the 
place of surprise. He swore at me 
horribly. He would show me, he said, 
and he raised his fist to strike me. He 
knew he would have the captain and the 
mate at his back. Besides, to tell the 
truth, he was a plucky little fellow. But 
I had had enough of the whole thing. I 
determined to take chances if necessary 
on getting a long drop and a scragging 

54 A Man Adrift 

rope. If I fought I'd have to go to the 
whole hog. The chances were I'd get 
shot. If I killed anyone, there was no 
chance at all about it. I'd get hung. 

But my blood was up. 

As Scotty raised his fist to strike me, 
I rose suddenly and let him have a 
swinging blow full in the mouth. His 
head struck against the bulking of the 
cabin. And I rained half-arm punches 
on his face till it was a mass of blood. 
He fought me as well as he could, but 
I was a much bigger and stronger man. 
He hadn't the ghost of a* show. And 
all the time I was punching him I felt 
I was fighting with a rope round my 
neck, and when that's the case a man 
might as well go in for a sheep as 
for a lamb. 

And the whole infernal degradation of 
the life broke in on me like a lightning- 
flash while I was fighting. I thought 
I might as well end it. And I tried 
to kill Scotty. 

But he got away from me up the cabin 
steps and on to the deck. He realised 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 55 

that he was in danger of his life, and 
the animal instinct to save himself came 
uppermost in him. The fight had been 
knocked out of him. 

I followed him up on deck, where I 
was faced with the captain and the mate. 
But I was ready for them, too and 
seeing that I was ready they came to 
the conclusion that the easiest way out of 
it was the best. The captain calmed 
things down. I suppose it dawned upon 
him that it was no joke doing a man up 
who was ready to fight for all he was 
worth. During the whole affair the men 
my mates stood in a group forward. 
They didn't offer to interfere. 

After that I always got a clean plate. 

The dredging season began in October 
and ended in March the six coldest and 
hardest months of the year. Once I was 
on a sloop that was frozen up in solid 
ice for nearly a month. Then we had a 
good time. Nothing to do but to eat 
and sleep and go ashore occasionally 
for water. We were anchored about a 
hundred yards from the shore, and we 

56 A Man Adrift 

had cut a channel through the ice, so 
as to get the little yawl backward and 
forward. One afternoon another fellow 
and myself got the yawl ashore, so as 
to bring aboard a barrel of water and 
some flour and bacon. It was freezing 
very hard. We loaded up the yawl, and 
began to work our way back to the sloop, 
but when we had got about half way 
we were blocked up. The loose ice float- 
ing in the channel had become frozen 
together. We worked for an hour, and 
made hardly any headway. And one 
hour reached into two hours, and two 
hours into three hours. Then we saw 
that perhaps we couldn't make the sloop 
that night. So we thought it better to 
make for the shore again. But in this 
we were stopped, too. The loose ice 
had frozen together behind us. Nor 
could we land on the ice on either side 
of us, for the reason that there were 
large pieces of loose ice on both sides 
of the yawl, and stepping on them would 
mean falling into the water, which would 
mean death. The lads on the sloop kept 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 57 

shouting to us from time to time to cheer 
us up. But we were getting anxious. 
If we had to stay in the yawl through 
the night it would mean that we should 
be frozen stiff by morning. And now 
darkness and night had come upon us. 
We worked on and on, smashing at the 
ice with our oars. And after what seemed 
to me an eternity the ice slowly began to 
move. We fought it foot by foot along 
the channel to the sloop. They had put 
lights on the roof of the cabin, so that 
the reflections would show us where to 
strike at the ice. At last we got near 
enough for them to throw us a rope, 
which we made fast to the yawl, and 
then, with the help of their tugging, we 
got alongside the sloop. They pulled us 
aboard, and gave us a big stiff drink of 
whisky, which fixed us up all right. It 
was midnight. It had taken us about 
eight hours to go a hundred yards. 

On Saturday nights we would go to 
Cambridge a little town on the eastern 
shore of the Bay and tie up till Monday 

58 A Man Adrift 

morning. Then we would get an advance 
perhaps of a dollar apiece from the cap- 
tain. Armed with this we would go up 
into the town to have a good time. You 
could buy a lot of whisky in Cambridge 
for a dollar. And whisky is what we all 
bought. In other words, we used to get 
drunk. Then we used to fight with one 
another, or fight with the police, if they 
tried to interfere with us. We were 
looked upon as the scourings of the 
earth which, as a matter of fact, we 
were. The dredgings of the earth. We 
were a bad lot. But we weren't too bad 
to do the beastly work of dredging. Yes, 
we used to get drunk. And why not ? 
It was the only thing left open for us. 
We were a dirty, rough lot 'of uncouth 
men, we dredgers. 

Years and years have gone by since 
that time, but the faces of the men, the 
dredgers I knew, are still clear in my 
memory. Aye, their hard, weather-worn 
faces rise before me. Where are they 
now? Where are they gone? Drudges 
of a dredge. Where are they ? Nobody 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 59 

knows and nobody cares. Poor human 
driftage! Dogs for everyone to throw a 
stone at. I have an affection for them 
all. My comrades in hardship and 
misery. There is nothing brings men 
so close together. Aye, I have a fond- 
ness for them all. Even poor little 
Scotty, whom I fought with, I would like 
to see even him. 

There was Dublin. A fine fellow was 
Dublin. He was an Irishman a Dublin 
man. Nobody knew his real name, 
and nobody asked it. His town became 
his sponsor. Indeed, many of us 
dredgers had almost forgotten our real 
names. My name was Reddy because 
I had red hair. And there was Galway 
Paddy, and Tom Conroy, the Connaught 
man, and Belfast, whose town, too, had 
become his sponsor, and lots of others. 

One Saturday night, Galway Paddy 
wanted to fight me. We were all of us 
having a hilarious time, for the captain 
and mate had gone ashore till Monday. 
So the whisky was flowing, and we were 
singing songs, and telling one another 

60 A Man Adrift 

where we had been and where we hadn't 
been. All at once someone began to 
talk about fighting, and one word 
brought on another, till at last Dublin 
challenged Tom Conroy, the Connaught 
man. They agreed to fight on the 
after deck. It was a dark night, and 
one of us stood on the roof of the cabin 
holding a lantern so that the men could 
see to punch each other. Dublin was 
a good man to fight, but on this occasion 
he was too drunk, and the Connaught 
man knocked him out in short order. 
I stood on the wharf the boat was 
made fast to a big pile and cheered 
on Dublin, who was my particular friend. 
When he got knocked out, Gal way 
Paddy, who was backing up the Con- 
naught man, challenged me to fight. 
I liked Paddy, and having no reasons 
to quarrel with him, I declined with 
thanks. I used to make it a rule never 
to fight without a reason. But he 
persisted, and finally he made a rush for 
me from the deck. I was just getting 
ready much against my will to let 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 61 

him have a hard left-and-right, when, 
to my intense surprise, the indomitable 
Patrick suddenly disappeared. It was 
dark, and I couldn't make out where he 
had got to till I heard a voice down be- 
neath me spluttering out : " Reddy ! 
Pull me up! I'm dhrownin'!" It was 
poor Paddy. As he was making the drive 
for me he stepped on nothing, between 
the boat and the wharf, and the first 
thing he knew was the finding of him- 
self in the icy cold water. I yanked 
Paddy up. It was a good job I was sober 
enough, for there was nothing for him 
to grab at, and no room for him to swim. 
He would have been drowned, sure 
enough. This stopped the fighting. 

But Dublin, I often think of him. He 
was a fing type of man, though he was 
but a rough hulk of a dredger a mag- 
netic, able man, who never had had the 
ghost of a chance in this big world. And 
right here I would like to say a word 
concerning labouring men. It is said 
that they do not think. This is not 
true. I, who have been a labouring 

6 2 A Man Adrift 

man, bear witness to the fact that, in 
the main, men who are rough and 
illiterate have more vigour of thought 
and imagination than the men who 
have received educational advantages, 
and who are alleged to be intellectual. 
I mean that they have more genuine 
mind-power. The labourer is faced with 
grim, iron facts, and his judgment 
whatever its scope is evolved from a 
first-hand experience of actual life. 

Poor Dublin! He was drowned. He 
was lost at night in one of the sudden 
squalls that come up in the winter time 
in the Chesapeake Bay. He was scull- 
ing a little yawl to the schooner he be- 
longed to. The squall struck the yawl 
and capsized her, and Dublin died 
fighting in the cold waters. God rest 
him ! He was a brave, fine man, though 
he did get drunk, and though he did 
fight, and though he had been in' prison 
often and often. He would give the 
last cent he had to a stranger if the 
stranger needed it. He was sympa- 
thetic and noble, and, above all, brave. 

Life on an Oyster-Boat 63 

He was my pal my friend. There was 
something fine in the expression of his 
face. He had blue eyes and fair hair, 
and he was a middle-sized man of a power- 
ful build. I never knew his real name. 
Everyone liked him. Dredger though 
he was, tramp though he was, though 
he had known the inside of prisons, I 
am proud of having known him, of 
having taken his hand, of having been 
his friend. 


WE hauled in our dredges, and headed 
for Black Walnut Harbour, which lay 
off about seven miles to the north-west. 
We had been dredging for oysters all 
the morning. Our little schooner was not 
more than twenty tons burthen, and there 
were seven men of us aboard, all told. 

The weather had begun to look ugly, 
and the captain thought we might as 
well be getting in to harbour. All the 
morning there had been a nasty swell 
rolling, and now and then smartish 
spells of wind. We thought that, likely 
enough, we would be able to weather 
it out till sunset. But white caps began 
to show on the waves, and far off on the 
north-west the sky was gradually darkening. 

We were in for a nor'-wester, sure 
enough, and a nor'-wester always means 
business. It was near the end of the 

Fighting a Nor'-wester 65 

month of December in the shallow, dan- 
gerous waters of the Chesapeake Bay. 

Suddenly, as I was coiling the dredge 
rope round the neck of the starboard 
dredge, the nor'-wester smashed down 
on us. The jib bellied out, and strained 
as if she would break away. I rushed 
forward to ease the sheet. We were in 
it. Right in a whirl of flying, cutting 
spray, wind-gusts, and claps of thunder. 
It was dark now, and the tops of the 
waves looked like the edges of big, tear- 
ing flames as the streaks of lightning 
flashed on them. We were shipping 
murderous-looking seas. 

The harbour we were making for lay 
off right dead in the eye of the wind, 
and, in fact, was no harbour at all for a 
nor'-wester, but there was no other place 
for us to make for. It was Hobson's 
choice. Go in or stay out. Besides, 
there was a small bend in it to the west 
right over at the end. If we could make 
this we would be sheltered a good deal. 

Beating up in the eye of the wind 
meant making very short tacks with 

66 A Man Adrift 

everything close reefed and the sheets 
hauled down flat. We took the foresail 
in altogether. Then we worked slowly 
up with the jib and short mainsail. It 
was hard, cold work. The frost numbed 
my fingers even through the thick mittens 
I wore. 

By this time it had lightened up again, 
but the gale broke along harder than 
ever. The captain was at the wheel, with 
the lappets of his sou'-wester tied down 
over his ears. His brother stood by him. 
Victor was forward tending the jib sheet. 
Jack and I were amidships hanging on 
to the mainsail halyards. The schooner 
was labouring terribly, and it looked 
as if she might swamp. If a big sea 
were to bear down upon her before she 
had recovered from the sea before, 
the business would be done, and we 
would be fighting for our lives in the 
cold waters. We would struggle a little 
and die like freezing, drowning rats. 
She was of the wrong shape and of too 
small a tonnage to be a good, heavy- 
weather boat. In a gale of wind there 

Fighting a Nor'-wester 67 

is nothing like having plenty of tonnage 
under you. 

After a long and hard time we beat 
our way up to the edge of the harbour. 
How we managed it I don't know. It 
was one continuous, desperate fight with 
big, chopping seas and a wind that cut 
you and wrenched you and stung you 
to the bone at the same time. All of us 
were drenched through and deadly cold. 
Only for Frank, the cook, managing to 
make us some coffee we would never 
have been able to do anything. Hot 
coffee, mixed with whisky, is a good 
drink or a tight place. 

Sloops and schooners were straining 
and tugging at their anchors inside the 
harbour. They had been caught sud- 
denly, as we were caught, and had no 
time to make for a better harbour from 
the nor'-wester. 

Now we were in and close up to the 
bend. If we could make our way up 
it would be all right. But we couldn't. 
The wind was so strong that we were 
not able to make the very short tack 

68 A Man Adrift 

necessary to get in. So we had to let 
our anchors go right where we were. 
The minute they chocked the schooner 
up we began to pay out all the chain 
we could afford. In heavy weather the 
more chain there is out to the anchor 
the better chance has it of holding. 

For a while we seemed to be all right. 
But all at once our anchors began, to drag. 
They were too light. This had been the 
chief reason for our trying to make the 
bend. The other boats in the harbour 
were holding their own, but they evi- 
dently had much heavier anchors com- 
pared with their size than we had. 

Drag ! Crunch ! Drag ! There was no- 
thing for us to do but to let the anchors 
go altogether. We fixed buoys on to the 
chains before we cast them off, so that 
we could find them afterwards, and then 
we turned and made for the mouth of 
the harbour again. There was nothing 
for it but to run out into the nor'-wester 
and take our chances till the gale wore 
itself down. It was like running into 

Fighting a Nor'-wester 69 

Right near the edge of the harbour we 
collided with a big schooner swinging at 
anchor. Both of us suffered. She had 
part of her bowsprit wrenched off, and 
our fore-shrouds were torn away on the 
port side. For a few seconds the boats 
closed and seemed to grapple together. 

At this point the German who belonged 
to our crew got on to the big schooner to 
help to push our boat off. In a minute 
we were free of her and rushing on before 
the gale, but when we looked round for 
the German he was gone. He had 
stopped aboard the big schooner. 

We could hardly blame him, however, 
for our game had too many chances of 
losing in it. What we were going to do 
was not very clear. The object of going 
out again after we had lost our anchors 
was to save the boat. We were staking 
our lives for it. 

And it looked as if we were going to 
lose them. No one could tell what 
would come from one minute to another. 
We might be swamped or something 
might give way. 

yo A Man Adrift 

And now an accident happened. 

The wooden jib-traveller broke away 
all at once, and Victor, who was stand- 
ing on it, was flung overboard. He had 
been jamming the jib sheet to leeward 
with his foot. The big iron ring at the 
bottom of the sheet, which ran along the 
traveller, had caught in the middle of 
it, and the traveller had suddenly 
smashed upwards through the force of 
the wind on the jib. 

I saw Victor flying up in the air as 
clean as if he had been shot out of a 
gun. I rushed forward and flung over 
the end of a rope, but I could see no- 
thing of him. The sea had swallowed 
him right up. It is awful to see a man 
go to death in such a way. We all 
shouted. The captain flung out the only 
life-buoy we had. Lowering the little 
yawl that hung astern would have been 
worse than useless. It would have lived 
no more than a few seconds in the sea 
that was running. We could do nothing. 

The jib was flapping viciously. The 
first thing to do was to let it down with 

Fighting a Nor'-wester 71 

a run, which I did. Then I thought I 
heard a voice coming from somewhere 
forward. I turned my head, and I heard 
it again. And then I worked my way 
slowly up to the bowsprit. The schooner 
was tossing about now more than ever, be- 
cause of there being no jib to steady her. 

I looked overboard, and I saw Victor. 
He was down in the water right under 
the bow of the boat, clinging to the bob- 
stay. I just reached down, caught him 
by the scruff of the neck, and yanked 
him aboard. A stream of blood was 
running down his face. A splinter from 
the traveller had struck him. We were 
glad to have him safe aboard again, but 
we didn't have time to tell him so. 
There was too much to be done. The 
reason for his escape from death was 
simple. He had been flung overboard 
in the direction that the boat was going, 
and she had drifted right on to him. 
He was all right again, however, as soon 
as he got his head tied up, and had had 
a drink of hot coffee. Then he fought 
along with the rest of us. 

j2 A Man Adrift 

We tried to rig up a sort of traveller 
for the jib with blocks and lashings, but 
it was no use. It was blowing too hard. 
And all the while the schooner was 
floundering and shipping seas. Then, 
as nothing could be done with the jib, 
Jack and I crawled out on each side of 
the bowsprit and tied it down. How we 
stuck on the foot-ropes I don't know. 
It was the ugliest job men ever tackled. 
You had to stick for all you were worth, 
or you were gone. The bowsprit would 
bury itself right down in the water rise 
and bury itself again. As I was cau- 
tiously and slowly tying a knot I would 
suddenly find my head a foot under 
water. I would gulp, and stick like iron, 
and slowly I would find myself lifted 
up again. It was one hand for yourself 
and the other for the boat. But at last 
we had it finished, and we got inboard. 

The next thing to do was to raise the 
foresail, reef it as close down as we 
could, and raise the peak of it a little. 
Our idea was to try and make it take the 
place of the jib by giving more sheet to 

Fighting a Nor'-wester 73 

it than we gave to the mainsail. In the 
end we were successful ; but we had a 
fearful job reefing it, for our hands were 
numbed with cold. Frank, the cook, was 
standing next to me helping to reef, and 
I saw him tie a grannie knot. A grannie 
knot slips when a strain comes upon it, 
and knots that slip on a boat may mean 

I swore hard at Frank as I undid and 
retied the knot myself. He shuddered, 
and said, " Don't swear at a time like 
this. We may never touch land again." 
Frank evidently thought it was more 
dangerous to swear than to tie an unsafe 

There was nothing to do after this but 
to run before the gale and hope for the 
best. I pulled off my big sea boots so 
as to have whatever chance there was of 
swimming when the time came. I might 
as well have kept them on though, for 
all the chance I would have had, for the 
shore was fifteen or twenty miles away. 
Besides, even if a man could keep his 
head in the big seas he would be frozen 

74 A Man Adrift 

up in no time. But in a tight time one 
instinctively does all one can. The long, 
soaked boots made my feet cold anyway. 
The captain's brother began to cry, but 
one couldn't blame him, for he was little 
more than a boy. 

But I must say the captain was 
game. He stuck to the wheel for 
hour after hour, his face set and calm. 
He was a man from the eastern part 
of Maryland. 

The night was upon us now, and the 
moon came out clear and bright. But 
the gale broke on as hard as ever. Still, 
being able to see the lie of the bay shore 
was a good thing. 

It was this that saved us in the en.d, 
for the captain saw, away off, an inlet 
that he knew. We had run farther 
from Black Walnut Harbour than we 
thought. The beach of this inlet was 
sloping and of sand. The thing was 
to get into it and run the schooner 

We got into the inlet all right, and 
before we knew where we were we were 

Fighting a Nor'-wester 75 

safe and sound on the sand. The slope 
was so gradual that we could hardly feel 
ourselves beaching. And the gale roared 
and roared. But we were snug and out 
of danger. 

We stayed there two days. And when 
the nor'-wester had worn itself out, and 
everything was calm and quiet again, we 
pulled ourselves off the beach at high tide. 
We had weathered the nor'-wester. Then 
we went back to Black Walnut Harbour 
and picked up our anchors. 

At last I grew tired of dredging. I 
was as hard up as when I began. Labour 
had brought me nothing but hardship and 
degradation. I had worked the blood 
and muscle out of my body to create 
wealth for others. I had lived in the 
midst of absolute filth in a place not fit 
to kennel a dog in. If I hadn't been 
a dangerous, fighting brute of a man I 
would have been struck and ill-used into 
the bargain. Aye, I- had worked my life 
out to create wealth for others, and for 
my reward I had neither a place to sleep 

7 6 A Man Adrift 

in nor a bite to eat. What was the use of 
working at all, I thought? I got neither 
reward nor respect. 

So I faced about and became a 


To be penniless and on tramp Is a 
curious experience. You care for no 
one, and no one cares for you. Things 
about you seem vague and elusive. You 
are in a mental chaos. You are a link 
dissevered from the human chain. And 
you wander hardly knowing or caring 
where you wander. 

As you shuffle along people glance at 
you as they pass. Scorn is in their eyes, 
for you are a man without a home a man 
without friends. You are dispirited, dirty, 
and without self-respect. The aphorism 
that the world owes every man a living 
does not apply to you. 

You haven't spirit enough to steal ; you 
haven't continuity of mind enough to plan 
a course of action. Your thoughts waver. 
You will forget where and how you began 
to think. Projects will come up before 

78 A Man Adrift 

you, and they will fade before you grasp 
them. If you had force enough in you 
you would hate everything and everybody. 
You would feel hard, sharp resentment. 
You would like to do murder, to rob, to 
destroy. You would like to hold the 
world in the hollow of your hand so that 
you might crush it. 

But you are impotent your pulse is 
down you shuffle along. 

Who you are or what you were matters 
not. You may be a man with a past, you 
may be a man with a future. You may 
be one who has belonged to the topmost 
class ; you may be a labourer, or a man 
from out the filth of the slums, or a 
dispirited low-down thief. 

And you beg for bread. You knock at 
the doors of houses and ask for something 
to eat, or you ask alms of stray, passing 
men. It may have been that at one time 
in your life you would have thought it 
impossible for you to beg. You would 
have shuddered at the bare idea. How 
shameful ! You would have thought that 
death would be preferable. If a man had 

On Tramp 79 

said that you would come to this you 
would have struck him in the face. Per- 
haps when you did think of able-bodied 
men begging you thought of them as 
wretches hardly worth the powder and 
ball it would take to kill them. 

You feel sad. 

Still there are times when a fine moment 
comes to you. It may be that you will 
feel the curious sense of power that be- 
longs to utter loneliness. It may be that 
you will feel the sense of freedom that 
comes from a total lack of responsibility. 
No one is dependent upon you. No one 
is waiting for you. If people have a con- 
tempt for you, at least they let you alone. 
And this is something. 

You are thrown in upon yourself. For 
the first time in your life, perhaps, you 
really begin to know who and what you 
are. You are interested in the strange 
unfoldings of yourself. You have dreams 
and fancies and curious longings. A world 
opens to you within yourself. And you 
walk on and on, bearing with you a 
wonderful dream world. 

80 A Man Adrift 

What matters to you the contempt of 
people who move in grooves, who them- 
selves fear the opinions of others ? After 
all, they will die, even as you will die. 

Yes, they will die in a day. They will 
come to dust. For you the sun shines as 
it shines for them. For you the water 
flows as it flows for them. In common 
with them you have the air to breathe. 
In common with them you can see the 
strange pictures in the clouds. In common 
with them you can move and think and 
see and hear. 

In moments when these thoughts are 
with you, you move along with a brisk 
step you ask for bread without shame. 


BILLY and I were partners. We tramped 
along looking for work together ; we slept 
in the same haystack together ; we whacked 
up what little money we got for doing odd 
jobs. When things were absolutely tight, 
we shared the food that we begged from 
the farmhouses we passed on the road. 
Who Billy really was I never had the 
least idea. Where he is now I have no 
idea. He came suddenly into my life, 
and went out of it in a like way. He 
told me his name was Billy, and that was 
the end and beginning of anything tangible 
he had to say about himself. True, he 
spoke now and then of his life in the past, 
but only in a vague, distant sort of way 
as if he were speaking more to himself 
than to me. 

We were just two outcasts who met by 
F 81 

8 a A Man Adrift 

chance, and who stayed by each other 
while circumstances permitted. 

I saw him first as I was going along 
the road to Baltimore. He was sitting 
under a hedge on the roadside when I 
noticed him a tired, sad-looking, bearded 
man of about forty-five. His clothes were 
old and worn, and covered with dust. On 
the face of it, he was a tramp like myself. 
His eyes were large and blue, and in them 
was a curious look of mingled pathos and 
resentment the look that marks the man 
whose life has been a failure from the 
world's standpoint. 

" Hello, partner ! " I said, as I stopped 
and looked at him. "Where are you 
bound for?" 

" Baltimore," he answered. There was 
a pleasant ring in his voice. 

" I'm going that way, too," I said. 

We talked for a little while, and then 
we started on our ,way together. 

It was a beautiful afternoon in Sep- 
tember. The leaves of the trees were 
already beginning to turn to the rich 
varied colours of the fall, or American 

Billy 83 

autumn. Though I had no idea where I 
would sleep that night, I felt to the full 
the joy of life. There was something so 
vital and clear and sustaining in the air. 
Off from the road were glades and forests 
toned with curious and exquisite colours. 
The clear cries of birds filled the air. I 
felt glad as I stepped out freely along the 
road. It was worth while being a name- 
less and homeless tramp for the sake of 
living and moving through a scene like 

As we walked along Billy and I talked 
together. He interested me very much 
not so much because of what he had to 
say, but because of himself. The man 
had individuality. 

After a little while I found out what 
he was. This was as far as I ever got, 
for I never found out who he was. Likely 
enough he wished to forget it himself, 
and I had no curiosity on that score. I 
knew as much about him in the first half 
hour as I ever knew. 

He was an English gentleman who had 
drifted away from his bearings, and come 

84 A Man Adrift 

down in the world just a piece of human 
wreckage. He did not, of course, say 
that he was a gentleman, but I saw it 
almost at a glance. There was no mis- 
taking it. About him was that fine, 
curious, half-insolent air that air that 
is called "manner." Hardship and the 
humiliation of having to beg for his bread 
had not robbed him of this. 

We tramped on and on for hours 
past cornfields and peach orchards and 
forests. Now and then we saw in the 
distances stretches of the shining, silver 
waters of a bay. It was the Chesapeake 
Bay. The memory of that strange after- 
noon will always be with me. We talked 
of many things, the drift of which has 
since passed from me. 

At last, when the sun began to sink, 
we came to a halt, and began to discuss 
as to where we should pass the night. 
Off over near a big farmhouse we sighted 
a haystack, and we determined to wait 
till it grew darker, and then to go and 
climb up into it. We lay down near the 
hedge, and when it was dark we crossed 

Billy 85 

the field cautiously to the haystack. We 
were afraid of dogs hearing us and set- 
ting up a - barking. We got there all 
right, and we climbed up into the fresh, 
clean hay. We had found a most de- 
lightful bed a fragrant, refreshing bed, 
after the tramp of the day. 

The cool, clear stars were shining above 

When morning came we got down out 
of the haystack without being seen, and 
made a detour so as to approach the farm- 
house from the front. Our idea was to 
ask the people there for breakfast. After 
we had done a little work they gave us 
breakfast. Then we started out again on 
the main road. We could have got work 
on the farm, but that hardly suited us, 
as our object was to get to Baltimore. 
Besides, the charm of tramping the road 
was upon us. Moving along through the 
changing open country was a much more 
alluring prospect than sticking at hard 
steady work. 

At the time I met Billy I was all but 
an illiterate man being hardly able to 

86 A Man Adrift 

read and write. But still I had had a 
wide experience of actual living, and knew 
something about men. Thus I was able 
to appreciate Billy at his full worth, 
though I am afraid my appreciation was 
of but little help to him. Of the two I 
alone was the gainer. I could give him 
nothing, whilst he gave me a great deal. 
It is a curious thing to meet with and be 
indebted to a man whose name even you 
don't know. But such was the case. 

It was Billy who first gave me the idea 
of trying to educate myself. He did not 
do so knowingly, however. It was rather 
that I was struck with the great differ- 
ence that lay between us. He had style ; 
he knew things ; he could express him- 
self easily and surely. Though he was 
but a tramp like myself, still he had an 
advantage over me. True, this advan- 
tage had not been able to stop him from 
coming down in the world. But I felt it 
to be an advantage, nevertheless, and I 
longed to possess it, for it seemed to me 
that if I had it I would have a chance to 
raise myself. 



It was a curious look that Billy gave 
me when I spoke of this to him. But he 
volunteered to help me. 

I chanced to have in my pocket a little 
ten-cent dictionary. How or where I got 
it, I forget now. It was dog-eared and 
grimy, but it answered the purpose. 

My first task was to learn to pronounce 
the big words in it properly. Billy would 
tell me the right pronunciation, and I 
would repeat and repeat it after him till 
at last I got it. 

And so it went as we slowly tramped on 
our way to Baltimore. Billy took the 
greatest pains to teach me as much as 
possible. When I made a slip in speak- 
ing he would tell me of it and explain to 
me why it was a slip. 

He went into the history of the world 
and of the nations of the world. He 
told me of the mysterious origins and 
vagaries of religion. He told me how 
the geologists had wrested from the earth 
and rocks their dim secrets. 

These days were for me wonderful 

A Man Adrift 

We worked now and then at cutting 
corn or picking peaches. We wanted to 
have a little money by us when we got 
to Baltimore. The farmer would let us 
sleep at night in the barn. Sleeping on 
a warm night in a great, roomy barn is 
delightful. In the air is the cool fresh 
smell of the earth and its produce. How 
fine and refreshing is the smell of the 
earth ! Why do people live in towns ? 

At daybreak the farmer would come 
and call us ; and we would get up, lave 
our faces and hands in water, and go 
out into the field or orchard. After 
working an hour or so, we would come 
back hungry to breakfast ; and then we 
would work on to dinner-time, and 
then on up to sunset. After sunset 
we would have supper and go back to 
the barn. 

I liked the odd days we worked in 
the peach orchards best. The orchards 
were filled with an exquisite aroma. 
And the trees, with their green leaves 
and delicately-coloured, full fruit, looked 
so beautiful with the sun shining 

Billy 89 

through them. The farmer would allow 
us to take as much of the fruit as we 
wanted for ourselves. 

At other times we would stop on 
our way to bathe in a stream. Then 
we would wash our clothes, spread 
them out in the sun, and lie down and 
wait for them to dry. 

At last we were in Baltimore, a big 
town of busy streets and wharves, 
where lay ships of all descriptions. It 
was so different from the peaceful 
country, with its calm, glorious health. 
Here was nothing but rush and hurry, 
and unrest and foul air. Even the 
waters of the bay looked soiled and 
black from the wharves. I was sorry 
to be in the town. I thought of the 
pure air, and the clean, gliding stream- 
waters. The forest and wide fresh 
fields came up before me. 

We had got into Baltimore the night 
before. We had been tramping all 
day and we were very tired, and all 
the money we had between us was a 
dollar and seventy-five cents. Billy 

90 A Man Adrift 

knew of a cheap lodging-house near 
the Lightstreet Wharf, and we went 
there. The keeper of it was a man 
named Murray, who gave Billy a cordial 
welcome. Billy had stayed in the lodg- 
ing-house on and off for a long time. 

Here one could get a bed for ten cents, 
and a meal for fifteen cents. In the 
house were two great rooms, or dormi- 
tories, which held fifty beds each. 
They were small, narrow beds stand- 
ing in two long rows with a space of 
about a foot and a half between them. 
Every man slept with his clothes under 
his pillow. If this precaution were not 
taken one was apt to wake up and find 
either his money if he had any or 
part of his clothes gone. 

Billy and I were lucky enough to pick 
up some work on the wharf, for which 
we were paid at the rate of twenty 
cents an hour. The work was rather 
hard unloading freight from a ship 
but it was more interesting than labour- 
ing work usually is. 

During all this time Billy kept on 

Billy 91 

teaching me whenever he got a chance. 
I got some books, amongst which was 
a translation of Goethe's masterpiece, 
Faust. At once I learned off by 
heart the wonderful verses in the be- 
ginning of the poem, where the arch- 
angels address themselves to God. The 
sublimeness of the thoughts and words 
carried into my mind a great light. I 
felt myself awakening and growing. I 
began to see something beautiful even 
in the squalor around me. 

Soon I had committed to memory 
nearly the whole of the great poem. I 
would repeat parts of it aloud to Billy, 
and he would explain to me the mean- 
ing of certain passages. 

One night in the lodging-house I 
took Billy's part in a quarrel. A big, 
muscular fellow from New York was 
going to strike him. I interfered. 
This man had been talking disparag- 
ingly of England, and Billy had re- 
sented it, for, like all Englishman, he 
was proud of his country. I was not 

92 A Man Adrift 

much interested in the matter of hear- 
ing England abused being of Irish 
blood myself but I wasn't going to 
see Billy knocked about. His quarrel 
was my quarrel in fact, more than my 
quarrel. I would have laid down my 
life for Billy, the Englishman. Be- 
sides, I saw that he would have no 
earthly chance in a fight with the big 
muscular American. Billy was not strong, 
and he was rather slow in his movements, 
not suitable at all for quick, rough 

" Look here," I said to the American, 
" you mustn't hit Billy. He's my partner." 

" Won't I, by God ! " he exclaimed. 

" No, you won't," I said again, quietly. 
"You can't pick on him. I'm more 
your size. I'll fight you." 

Billy did not like me to interfere. 
" I'll fight my own battles," he said. But 
I took no notice. "Come on," I said to 
the American. " Strip off, and let's see 
what you can do." 

I pulled off my coat and shirt, and 
stood naked to the waist. Then I 

Billy 93 

tightened my belt. All the time I kept 
my eye peeled. I was on the lookout 
for a quick rush. 

The American also got ready. The 
other men stood off around us, making 
a ring. 

We were just about to get to work 
when Murray, the boss, came up into 
the big room. This stopped the thing 
at once. Murray was afraid of the 
police. And to tell the truth, I was 
rather glad of the interruption, as I 
had strong doubts as to whether or 
not I could polish off the big American. 

Dear old Billy! "English Billy," as 
they used to call him. Years after- 
wards I was again in Baltimore, under 
totally different circumstances. I called 
at the common lodging-house to try and 
get some tidings of him. I was no longer 
a tramp. The world had grown easier 
for me. I had changed. 

Murray was still at the old lodging- 
house. He was older and greyer. He 
wondered who it was who was asking 

94 A Man Adrift 

him about this English Billy who used 
to come and get a bed at his lodging- 
house. I could see that he had not 
the slightest idea as to who I was. 

He could tell me nothing. Billy had 
gone away years ago. 


OF all the kinds of labouring work I 
have ever tackled, shovelling is the most 
trying and monotonous. It is work of 
the sheer, unadulterated order. If dig- 
nity goes with it as it is alleged to go 
with all labouring work I can only 
hazard the opinion that this dignity is 
of the most diaphanous and hard-to-be- 
perceived kind. It certainly escaped my 
power of observation. 

Fellows have asserted to me that the 
navvy was really fond of his shovelling. 
"Give him his pipe and his glass of beer 
in the evening, and he goes back to his 
work in the morning with joy." This 
assertion has been made to me with vary- 
ing degrees of emphasis, but truth com- 
pels me to add that the fellow who so 
asserted was not a navvy never had been 
a navvy, and never was likely to be a 

96 A Man Adrift 

navvy. He was some leisured theoriser. 
Some wordful person. And it has 
always struck me that the ground upon 
which he based his assertion was about 
as solid and as easy to be seen as the 
alleged dignity which forms a halo 
around the art of shovelling and other 
kindred arts. Indeed, the only thing 
solid the assertion was based upon was 
the solidness of ignorance. 

I have been a navvy, and have neces- 
sarily mixed with navvies a great deal, 
and I must bear witness to the fact that I 
have never heard one of them speak of 
his work in other than tones of disgust. 
Their eyes have been as blind as my 
own in the matter of seeing where the 
dignity came in. 

My first essay at shovelling was in 
Columbus, Ohio. I had got a job of 
sniping on the railroad track. Sniping 
is nearly analogous to plate-laying in 
England. The difference is that the 
work is harder, and the hours longer, 
and the men are more bullied by the 
bosses. I fear me that the proud British 

Shovelling 97 

workman gets a surprise of the most 
unpleasant calibre when he tackles a job 
in America. He has to do twice the 
work for much about the same money 
that is, when everything is considered. 

But to my maiden experience in the 
art of shovelling. 

Myself and an old Irishman were given 
a job together to load up cinders on to 
flat cars. We worked side by side, and 
the amount we shovelled, as compared 
with each other, could, of course, be told 
by the size of our respective heaps. The 
old Irishman was of the genuine type of 
labour - slave. His father and grand- 
father had most likely been labourers 
before him. It was in his blood. He 
was like a poor, used-up old horse at 
its last gasp, but still able to draw. 

He was filled with a spirit of emulation, 
was the old Irishman, as he worked 
alongside of me. Here was I, a strong 
young man, whilst he was a man who 
was nearly at his end ! I could see that 
he was thinking this as he bent himself 
to his work. He was ould, but he would 


98 A Man Adrift 

show the boss how well he could shovel ! 
So he went at it as hard as he could. 

There was no such spirit impelling 
me. I worked with calmness and ease, 
and rested now and then. The result 
was that after some hours there was a 
tremendous difference between our re- 
spective piles. To use a comparison, the 
old Irishman's pile looked like one of 
the Himalayan Mountains, while mine 
had the appearance of a hill of very 
modest height. 

The boss came round, looked at the 
piles, and exploded with wrath. He, too, 
was an Irishman. " Look here," he 
shouted. "Look at this poor ould man 
ould enough to be your grandfather! 
Look at his pile, and look at your pile! 
Yez ought to be ashamed of yourself to 
let an ould man bate ye!" 

But I did not feel the sting of shame, 
and I let my lack of feeling be known to 
the boss. We had a sharp argument. 
During it, the old man shovelled harder 
than ever. A pleased look had come into 
his face. It was his moment of triumph. 

Shovelling 99 

The fact of his out-shovelling a strong 
young man and the boss noticing it was 
balm of Gilead to him. 

The next time I had a go at shovelling 
I was in Cincinnati. A sewer was being 
dug in one of the main streets, and I 
was put on with some other men at 
seven in the morning. The night before 
I had wandered around the city, because 
I had no money to get a bed. I was 
hardly in a condition to begin work. 
Still, there was no alternative. It was 
either work or starve. Indeed, it was 
work and starve, too, for when twelve 
o'clock came lunch time I could get 
no lunch. I could not get a sub from 
the boss as a navvy could in England. 
It must always be remembered that the 
conditions surrounding labouring work 
in the States are much more pitiless than 
they are in England. 

So there was nothing for it but to 
work all day without anything to eat. 
When we stopped at six in the evening 
I was hopeless as to being able to con- 
tinue at the work, but, as good fortune 

ioo A Man Adrift 

would have it, I was lucky enough to 
be taken by one of the timberers to his 
boarding-house. But for that I would 
have lost the work, and in addition to it 
my day's pay, for the contractor only 
paid once a month, and I could not have 
waited round for the sake of a dollar and 
a half. I have often known men in 
America to have to give up work because 
they could neither get food nor shelter. 

The shovelling in this sewer was very 
hard work indeed. A system of " run- 
ning " was in vogue there. There was a 
man in each gang of shovellers who was 
secretly paid a quarter of a dollar a day 
more than the rest. He would work, of 
course, as hard as he could, and anyone 
in the gang who could not or would not 
keep up with him was at once discharged. 
Added to this, the sun was burning the 
life out of one. I have seen poor, half- 
starved men have to give up work in 
less than an hour because the pace was 
so killing. This sort of murder-work 
gives the answer to the question as to 
why there are so many tramps in the 

Shovelling 101 

United States. I was glad when the 
end of the month came, and I was able 
to draw what money was coming to me 
and to go on my way. 

Perhaps the hardest shovelling of all 
is the shovelling of sand. I had an ex- 
perience of this in British Columbia. 
I worked there or four days unloading 
sand-scows in the harbour of Vancouver. 
The pay was thirty cents an hour a 
rate of three dollars a day. After the 
first day's work I was so tired that I felt 
as if I could lie down and die. I had 
a strained, sore feeling all over my body. 
I was hardly able to eat my supper. 

Right here I would like to explode the 
fallacy to the effect that extreme intel- 
lectual labour is more severe than extreme 
manual labour. I have tried both, and 
I must say that my verdict is, Give me 
intellectual labour every time. It is 
cleaner in the first place ; in the second 
place there are no degrading conditions 
surrounding it ; and, in the third place, 
it is certainly less monotonous. Again, 
the world attaches real dignity to in- 

102 A Man Adrift 

tellectual labour, while the dignity that is 
attached to manual labour smacks too 
much of the legendary and mythical. 
The people who prate of the superior 
exhaustive quality of brain labour are 
invariably people who have not tried 
both. They give forth their judgment 
with all the confidence of ignorance. To 
be just, however, I must admit that it 
is a politic thing to let the navvy know 
all about the hardships of intellectual 

But let us go back to the art of 
shovelling sand. The reason that sand 
is so much harder work to shovel than 
gravel or cinders, or coal or clay, is 
because every time you sink your shovel 
into the sand you get exactly the same 
amount and weight upon it, and the 
efforts you have to make in pitching it 
off are absolutely uniform. Making the 
same effort of strength through several 
hours at a stretch is most tiring. The 
muscles get no chance to rest or recover. 
In the shovelling of clay or coal, or any- 
thing that breaks up unevenly, the 

Shovelling 103 

efforts made in pitching vary with the 
different weights and sizes that get upon 
the shovel. Slight though this difference 
may be, it still is enough to cause a 
continuous relaxing and tightening of 
the muscles. Thus the muscles get some 
chance to rest and recover through the 
variation of the efforts made. And at 
the end of the day a man is nothing near 
so tired as he would be after a day's 
work at shovelling sand. 

In Vancouver I got a job with a road- 
making gang. I, with others, worked 
up the soil so that the stones could be 
laid. The soil was clay, and we shovelled 
it into the carts, which were drawn off 
by mules and dumped somewhere out- 
side the town. We were paid at the 
rate of two dollars and a half a day. 
After working the first half day, I hit 
upon a scheme for making the shovelling 
easier. The clay was apt to stick, and 
one had to jerk the shovel hard in the 
pitching to get it off. This didn't suit 
me a little bit. My sole aim when I was 
navvying was to work as easily as I 

IO4 A Man Adrift 

possibly could without getting the sack. 
Thus when I pitched, I did not give 
the shovel the necessary jerk. The 
result was that it was always half-filled 
with clay. I only threw, therefore, half 
a shovelful into the cart at every pitch. 
I had, of course, a full shovel's weight 
to swing each time, but I saved the 
extra jerk. My method was decidedly 
immoral, as far as regard for the interest 
of the contractor was concerned, but it 
certainly possessed the tangible merit of 
being easier for myself. Shovelling 
hardly develops a feeling for ethics. 

After a time, a man who works at 
shovelling will begin to find himself 
getting muscle-bound. I mean that he 
will find himself getting slow and stiff 
and clumsy in his movements. The 
reason for this is because a particular 
set of muscles are developed out of all 
proportion to the rest. The man who 
has become muscle-bound will find, if 
he ever gets into a fight, that he can 
give but a bad account of himself. He 
will be slow and awkward, and always 

Shovelling 105 

in the way of the other man's blows. 
He may be much stronger than his 
opponent, but he will be unable to strike 
a blow that is anywhere near in pro- 
portion to his strength. It grieves me 
to have to say that my once-upon-a-time 
comrade, the navvy, is the easiest man 
going to beat in a fight. All you have 
to do is to keep out from him. And 
when you are prodding him for the good 
of his health, see that he doesn't get 
hold of you. 


IT was late in the afternoon when I got 
a job at Shaft 19. The foreman, Tom 
Connelly, told me to come on with the 
night shift at seven o'clock, so I went 
over to the shanty to wait for supper, 
look round generally, and see which 
bunk I would have to sleep in. The 
bunks were arranged in the sleeping 
shanty in something after the same way 
that bunks are arranged in the fo'castle 
of a ship. In each were two blankets 
and a mattress. 

I was glad when six o'clock came 
supper-time for I had not yet broken 
my fast that day, and I had walked up 
from New York into the bargain a 
distance of about eighteen miles. 

A Chinaman stood outside the door 
of the shanty where the meals were 
served. He was pounding on a gong. 
1 06 

At Shaft 19 107 

Men rushed from every direction from 
the mouth of the shaft, where a load of 
grimed navvies were pouring forth from 
the up-cage, from the sleeping-shanty, 
from all places around. They seemed to 
spring up out of the ground. The idea 
was to get to the first laying of the table. 
Missing it would mean that you would 
have to wait. I didn't miss it. 

What a mob of us there was in the 
shanty ! Eating and drinking and shout- 
ing and laughing and talking. They were 
a grimy mob, to be sure, but not a dirty 
mob. There is a difference between 
grime and dirt. The white races of the 
earth were nearly all represented. You 
heard English, French, German, and 
Russian spoken and shouted all at once. 
And other languages, too. It was a jolly, 
noisy crowd. Nothing of the down- 
trodden atmosphere about them. They 
had the magnetism that comes from 
actual contact with the earth. 

The supper was good and wholesome, 
and there was plenty of it cold, sliced 
meat, steaming hot coffee and tea, good 

io8 A Man Adrift 

bread and butter, potatoes, sliced tomatoes 
that were delicious, and fragrant, sweet 
corn. I fell to like a wolf. After all, 
there is a lot in life when you can eat 
well and heartily. How the knives and 
forks and plates clashed and rattled ! 
" Hey ! John, bring us some more meat 
here ! " a fellow would shout to the silent, 
busy, rushing Chinaman. You heard 
orders to this effect in badly-twisted 
languages of all kinds. I enjoyed that 
meal. After it I felt that I could tackle 
a mountain. 

At seven o'clock I stood with a crowd 
of men in the cage. We were ready to 
go down the shaft. There were two 
cages. One went up as the other went 
down. The corners of them fitted into 
slides that were fastened along the 
straight, steep sides of the shaft. They 
were pulled up and let down by a power- 
ful engine that stood off about thirty 
yards away. If the wire broke to which 
the cage was suspended, a powerful spring 
suddenly pushed out two immense steel 
claws or catches, which fastened on to the 

At Shaft 19 109 

big wooden beams lining the shaft. Thus 
the cage was held, and the men were 
saved from being dashed to death at the 
bottom. They could wait calmly till help 
came. So said the man who invented the 
spring and catches. 

Suddenly we sank down into the thick 
black gloom of the shaft. Some of the 
crowd had candles, and little kettle-shaped 
tin oil lamps fastened in the front of their 
hats. These hats were shaped like sailors' 
sou'-westers, so as to keep the water 
which dripped from the roof of the tunnel 
from going down their necks. Candles 
and little lamps were lighted now as we 
were sinking down the shaft. I caught a 
blurred glimpse of a straight, threatening 
black wall, lined with huge timbers. I 
felt a sinking sensation in the pit of the 
stomach, and a whizzing in the head. 
The pace at which we were sinking was 
terrific. And it seemed as if we were 
never going to get to the bottom. 

We stopped suddenly, after what 
seemed to me to be an eternity, though 
the shaft was but eight hundred feet deep. 

no A Man Adrift 

Out of the cage we got, and we were now 
standing beneath the roof of the tunnel 
which ran north and south into the earth. 
One could hear in places the steady drip, 
drip of water. There were twenty-eight 
tunnels extending from Croton to New 
York. The human gnomes would burrow, 
burrow, north and south, north and south, 
till all the tunnels met and formed one 
great tunnel twenty-eight miles long. 
Through this tunnel water was to come 
from Croton for the people of New York 
to drink. It was a tremendous job, and 
thousands of men were at work. The 
contractors boarded them at the rate of 
four dollars a week, and a dollar and a 
half a day was the lowest wages paid. 

As we stood in the tunnel we heard a 
clank! clank! It sounded weirdly and 
curiously through the stillness and dark- 
ness. It was a mule drawing a car along 
the line of short-gauge rails which ran 
along the floor of the tunnel from the 
north and south headings to the bottom 
of the shaft. The headings were the 
extreme points north and south to which 

At Shaft 19 in 

the drillers had pierced through the 

Now we were up in the north heading. 
We belonged to the north heading gang. 
We had tramped slowly along the tunnel 
about five hundred yards, and got our 
picks and shovels and drills and machines 
from a car on the way. Other men were 
following us from the next down-cage. 
Our light came from candles and lamps 
and torches ranged along the wall near us 
A fitful, uncertain light, but enough for us 
to see to do the work. I was in the pick- 
and-sbovel gang at the bottom of the 
bench a huge mass of rock shaped like 
a step, on the top of which was the narrow 
heading where the machine men and 
their helpers were now getting into 
position their machines and drills. 

At the foot of the bench was a great 
mass of broken rock, shattered out from 
the bench and heading by the dynamite- 
blast of the last shift. This we had to 
load into the car, which was drawn, when 
full, by the mule to the cage at the bottom 
of the shaft. Then it would be hoisted 

H2 A Man Adrift 

up and dumped out on the ground on top. 
While the mule was away we were loading 
up another car, which we had pushed up 
ourselves from a little siding. The big 
pieces of rock we lifted into the car with 
our hands. We used our shovels for the 
small and crumbled pieces. 

Up above us in the heading the machine 
drills were whirring, crunching and 
eating into the rock. Holes were being 
drilled at an angle from either side of the 
heading, so that the dynamite would blow 
out triangular sections of the rock. Holes 
were being drilled down perpendicularly 
into the bench. In awkward parts of the 
heading, or bench, where a machine drill 
could not be got to work, men were hand- 
drilling. Now and then I would look up 
and see flashing the bright, smooth faces 
of the seven -pound sledges as they were 
swung round and round by strong-armed, 
grimy men. Clang ! clang ! clang ! The 
sledges were striking the heads of the 
steel hand -drills as they were being 
turned and held into the rock by peering, 
crouching men. Whirrrr whirrrr 

At Shaft 19 113 

whirrrr were going the machine-drills, 
driven by compressed air. It was a chaos 
of whirring and crunching and ringing of 
driven steel and hissing of the escaping 
exhaust of air and crushing of rocks into 
the car, and shouts of " Look out there I " 
as a fellow would pinch down with a 
lever a big piece of rock from the top of 
the bench. We would jump out of the 
way as the great, jagged rock crashed past 
us. Water was dripping, dripping down 
upon us from the roof. We had to look 
out for the roof, for now and then in 
the tunnels pieces fell from above and men 
were killed. But we didn't think of that 
much. We just worked and worked 

There was a curious overpowering smell 
of earth penetrating everything. We were 
gnomes buried deep, deep down, fighting 
and crushing our way through the dark 
hidden rock. Fighting our way with 
steel and air and hammers and bursting 
frightful dynamite, and the power of 
blood and bone and muscle. We were 
gnomes gathered here from all parts of 


H4 A Man Adrift 

the earth. We were working down In 
darkness and shadows and fitful glarings 
of light We were as blind men fighting. 
We could see nothing but blackness, and 
solid, iron rock rock old with the age of 
thousands upon thousands of centuries. 
We were slowly fighting in blackness. 
But for all that we were going in a line 
that was straight absolutely. And at the 
same time there were twenty - eight 
tunnels going as we were going fifty- 
six headings in all. Fifty-six gangs of 
gnomes who in time would meet. And 
all were going in a straight line abso- 
lutely guided by the sure, piercing eye 
of Science. 

Hour after hour passed in the north 
heading of Shaft 19. The work was 
more interesting than navvying work 
usually, so one hardly noticed the time 
going. The noise and the curious 
picturesqueness of the surroundings gave 
one a stimulus. You could carry on a 
shouting conversation with the fellow 
working alongside you. Even if you 
didn't know his language, at least you 

At Shaft 19 115 

could manage to exchange some ideas 
with him, for the navvies had a tunnel 
slang as sailors have a ship slang. Shaft 
19 was not the first shaft at which I had 
worked, so I knew the ropes. 

Twelve o'clock was upon us before we 
knew where we were, and we stopped to 
get something to eat. A cold luncheon 
was brought down for us in big baskets to 
the bottom of the shaft. We left the 
heading in a body, and walked down the 
tunnel, and sat on and around the down- 
cage to eat our grub. We washed it 
down with cold tea or water. Some of 
the fellows produced bottles of beer which 
they had stowed away in safe places. 
This meal was a quiet one. None of us 
had much to say. The spell of midnight, 
darkness, and gloom was falling upon us. 
The sudden silence after the noise and 
movement affected us. You would hardly 
believe that we were part of the same 
crowd who had had supper together at 
seven o'clock in the evening. If men 
spoke at all, they spoke in low, subdued 
tones. And the drip ! drip ! of the water 

n6 A Man Adrift 

from the roof gave a weirdness to the 
overhanging silence. 

It was one o'clock in the morning now, 
and we were back again in the heading. 
The work was going on as before, but 
there was a difference in the men. They 
were becoming so silent. And as one 
o'clock merged into two o'clock, and two 
o'clock into three o'clock, they were silent 
as ghosts. Men moved round like 
phantoms. They were swinging ham- 
mers and lifting rocks and using picks 
and shovels. But it was as if the life of 
the men had gone into the tools and 
rocks as if they were but attendant 

At half-past five we had cleared up all 
the loose rocks. We were getting ready 
to blast. The drillers were sponging out 
the holes they had drilled through the 
long night. And then two wooden boxes, 
about a foot and a half square each, were 
carefully carried up into the heading. If 
a box fell from the arms of the man who 
was carrying it, it might mean sudden and 
frightful death for every man of us, for 

At Shaft 19 117 

each box was filled with dynamite. It 
was in the shape of big cartridges from 
ten to twelve inches long. Dynamite is 
an ugly thing to handle. One can never 
tell what amount of shock will set it off. 

We loaded up the picks and shovels 
and drills and machines into two cars 
which we pushed down the tunnel far 
enough to be away from the actual 
destroying effect of the blast. Then we 
got some distance behind them, and 
waited. By this time the holes in the 
bench and heading were primed and 
filled, and the heading boss was stand- 
ing near us ready to touch off the 
dynamite with an electric battery. 

He touched if off. 

I had been down in tunnels before 
when the dynamite had been set off by 
the connecting battery, and therefore 
knew what was coming. The best way 
to stand the tremendous, horrible shock 
was to let yourself go limp. If you 
braced yourself hard it was all the worse 
for you. The shock was all -seizing. 
Even your power of will could make no 

n8 A Man Adrift 

headway against it In fact, it would 
be better if you did not know it was 
coming at all. Imagine it! You were 
two hundred yards away from a 
terrific explosion that rushed along a 
space twenty by twenty feet, in a direct 
line. Its power was confined and kept 
intact just as is the exploding powder in 
the bore of a cannon. In fact, it was as 
if you were standing inside a gigantic 
cannon. You felt the shock of death 
without being dashed to death. Your 
body, your blood, your brain, your will 
were struck violently and horribly. 

After the blast we got into the cage and 
went up into the clear morning air. It 
was summer-time, and the sun was up. 
It was fine to see and feel it after being 
down in the darkness for eleven hours. 
We washed ourselves and then went 
over to the shanty to get breakfast. 
And after that we turned in. 


NEW ORLEANS is a picturesque town built 
upon a swamp. It lies in the form of a 
crescent round a bend of the Mississippi, 
the waters of which are eighteen inches 
higher than the level of the town. A 
levee has been built to protect it, but the 
inhabitants say that, some time or another, 
the town will be swept away by the over- 
rushing of the great river. Thus there is 
a shadow for ever hanging over New 
Orleans. But the town is gay and bright 
and full of life. It is a French town, 
that has become Americanised. Here 
gambling goes on day in day out, night 
in night out, year in year out. Wheels 
whirr, balls roll, cards shuffle on for 

The gambling-houses are on Royal 

120 A Man Adrift 

Street. They are fitted up in luxurious 
fashion. They may be blamable institu- 
tions, but at least they are democratic. 
All may enter, it matters not how shabby 
the attire, or how disreputable and low 
down the appearance. If a man has no 
money to get himself a place to sleep at 
night, he may go in and sit down. He is 
welcome to share the light and warmth. 
The tramp may jostle elbows with the 
rich, well-groomed blood, and there is no 
one to censure or to eject. A man need 
not be ashamed of meanness of dress, 
for no one notices or criticises. The lust 
after gold is a passion that brings men 
to a common level. 

How quaint and beautiful is the French 
Market! Here may be got the most 
delicious coffee in the world. Its effect 
upon one is like that of some rare old 
wine. It warms and soothes from crown 
to toe. An old negro, white-capped and 
white-aproned, may serve it to you across 
a stall. Around in the market is the 
huny and bustle of buying and selling. 
But there is in the hurry and bustle a 

In Prison 121 

suggestion of languor. It is not the 
hurry and bustle of the North. People 
pass, chattering the Creole patois ; negroes 
cry out the merits of their wares in shrill, 
wheezy voices ; flower-girls arrange and 
tie up bunches of flowers ; horses and 
carts back and start again ; drivers shower 
promiscuous benedictions; baskets are 

If you are hard up and hungry in this 
town, and you possess a dime, you may 
go to a saloon on the corner of Royal 
Street and get a sumptuous free lunch 
as much as ever you can eat of the best 
food. A chef will serve you with a cut 
from the joint, and a dish of delicious 
soup if you get there between certain 
hours. I have gone into this saloon 
suffering from a twenty-four hours' fast, 
and I have come out into the street again 
full and satisfied, and at peace with the 
world in general. 

Canal Street at night presents one of 
the most beautiful city sights of the 
world. It is very wide, and is lit up by 
electric lights, which shine from the tops 

122 A Man Adrift 

of columns. These columns stand in the 
centre of the street, extending along for 
miles. The effect of the lights piercing 
in a straight line through the distance is 

On the levee at night the negro roust- 
abouts collect together and sing quaint, 
strange part-songs. Often they have fine 
voices, and the harmonic effects they get 
are peculiar and beautiful. They are a 
happy-go-lucky lot of fellows, who work 
like dogs during the day for roustabout- 
ing on a Mississippi steamboat is the 
hardest work imaginable and forget 
about it at night over their songs. 

New Orleans ! A strange town. Its 
air is bright and clear, and its sunshine 
full and golden. And beautiful orange 
trees are in the gardens. But in the air 
there lurks disease, dread and foul. In 
the clearness hangs death. Overhanging 
is the eternal threat of the river. But 
still is the town bright and gay for it 
lies under the shadow of destruction. 

In this town I spent a month in prison. 

In Prison 123 

I was standing on the levee talking 
with two other sailors, when a policeman 
came along. He at once began to ques- 
tion us as to who we were, and what we 
were going to do, and how much money 
we had. I explained to him that we were 
on the look-out for a job ,of unloading 
freight from a ship, and that we had 
been working together lately on John 
Diamond's plantation. " No matter," he 
said. " How much money have you ? " I 
had two dollars, and the other fellows 
had none. " If you can't show me that 
you have ten dollars apiece, I will arrest 
the three of you," concluded the police- 
man. I pointed out to him the injustice 
of the whole thing, and asked him if that 
were the way they did things in the 
" Land of the Free." But he was obdur- 
ate. When I found out that he was 
really going to do what he said, I had 
a notion to knock him down and get 
away. But there were other policemen 
in sight, and it would only have ended 
in our being shot. We submitted to the 

124 A Man Adrift 

We were taken, and that night we were 
shut up with some others in the calaboose 
on the levee. There were about twenty 
of us in all negroes and white men. 
The fact of being arrested did not seem 
to weigh much on any of us. We were 
comforted by the curious philosophy that 
goes with poverty and misfortune. None 
of us had had the requisite ten dollars 
necessary to ensure us our liberty. So 
we made the best of it. I sent out for 
some beer with the two dollars I had 
we were allowed this privilege if we paid 
for it and we made merry. It is easy 
and natural to make merry with people 
who are in the same boat as yourself. 
We told stories, compared notes, and sang 
songs. One negro had a most beautiful 
voice. It was a voice of sweet, mournful 
timbre. Through it ran the sadness of 
the life of the slave. The man who sang 
had not been a slave, but he was born 
with the sense of the degradation of being 
flogged, and bought and sold. He sang 
"Carry me back to Ole Virginny" the 
song of the slave who had been sold 

In Prison 125 

away from the place where he was born. 
This negro sang more than anyone else. 
His voice seemed to chime in with the 
spirit of the situation. After all, we 
were nothing but white and black slaves 

And so the night wore away. 

It was not till a long time after that I 
learned the real reason of our arrest. It 
seems that an election was going on, and 
the party in power took the precaution 
of arresting all the strangers they could 
lay their hands on. They were afraid the 
other side would bribe them to vote. 
Such a simple thing as the stranger being 
an alien could be easily got over by 
supplying him with a name and an ad- 
dress. The buying and selling of votes 
is one of the staple industries of the 
United States. Why the party in power 
did not bribe the strangers themselves 
was rather a puzzle. It may have been 
that it was cheaper to clap them into 
gaol, for they would not only have to 
give them no money, but they could even 
make a profit on them while in prison 

A Man Adrift 

by charging up their maintenance to the 

When we were brought up before the 
Justice the next morning, I spoke out 
stiff and strong. For the first time in 
my life I was proud to own that I was 
an Englishman. I said I was glad that 
Fate had so willed it that I had been 
born in the north of England. I had 
inherited a prejudice against everything 
English with my Irish blood. But now 
my prejudice had received a shock. After 
everything was said and done, England 
was absolutely the freest country in the 
world. She practised the principles of 
freedom, while America only boasted in 
a blatant way about them. 

I talked like this to the Justice, but I 
am afraid that I only produced a bad 
impression upon him. Americans don't 
like their country or their institutions to 
be criticised. 

We were sent to prison for a month. 

In Prison 127 


IN prison, a man who is given to the 
habit of thinking passes through many 
mental stages. Shut off from the world 
outside, the whole of his mind as it were 
passes in review before him. He sees 
into its most obscure fold and depth. His 
imagination becomes freer more powerful. 
The small, harsh world into which he has 
been thrown has no power to cramp it. 
He passes through a curious, ripening 
experience. The reason, or crime, for 
which he is made to suffer can have no 
effect upon him in the way of making 
him downcast, for it will require but a 
slight effort of his intellect to show him 
that he is being made a scapegoat that 
he is being made to suffer because he has 
been bold enough to realise in action an 
idea he shares in common with other 
men. The* partition that separates the 
criminal from what is called the honest 
man is made of the thinnest tissue paper 

128 A Man Adrift 


I HAD committed no crime, but I realised 
that I was none the better for that. 
Better men than I had committed crime. 
In fact, I regretted bitterly that I had 
not done something. It was so stupid to 
be thrown into prison for nothing. The 
law punishes, but it certainly has no 
contempt for the desperate law-breaker. 
Indeed, it shows practically that it has a 
respect for him. But for the failures and 
hard-ups and unfortunates the law has 
not only punishment, but contempt. 

There were about as many negroes as 
whites in this prison. The whites were 
herded together in two great cells. 
Where the negroes were put I don't 
know. In the daytime we shared in 
common the freedom of the big yard. 
The negroes and whites usually kept 
themselves apart, however. The race 
distinction was perhaps more sharply 
drawn here than in the world outside. 
There was a white captain of the yard 

In Prison 129 

and a black captain of the yard prisoners 
in favour with the chief warder, who were 
told off to keep order amongst the men 
of their respective races. These captains 
carried heavy clubs, and they had the 
power to knock down any man who was 
disorderly or insubordinate. There was 
no work for the prisoners to do beyond 
the cleaning out of the cells. This was 
unfortunate, for it made the time hang 
wearily on one's hands. We could talk 
with each other, however. 

We wore the clothes in which we were 
sentenced. For food we were given a 
small loaf of bread each day, and a pint 
of alleged coffee in the morning and 
evening. The bread was nothing near 
enough to satisfy us. Everyone of us 
suffered from hunger. I was hungry 
during the whole month I was there. I 
used to wake up at night dreaming that 
I was eating plentifully. When we were 
eating the bread we would carefully watch 
for and pick up and eat the crumbs that fell. 
It is astonishing how delicious dry bread 

can taste when a man is really hungry. 

130 A Man Adrift 

To amuse themselves the warders would 
sometimes pitch loaves of bread to the 
prisoners. The sight was most sickening. 
Hungry white men and black men would 
sprawl and tumble in a heap together, 
fighting like wolves for the bread. The 
warders would stand off enjoying it. Now 
a nigger would clutch a loaf from a white 
man. Now the white man would tear it 
from him again. And as they fought 
they would send out sharp, clear, wolf-like 

There were about fifty men in the cell 
in which I was, and we governed our- 
selves while in there by a code of laws. 
These laws had been made by prisoners, 
and had been handed from one set to 
another for years. They were based on 
the same principles as the laws governing 
a country or any society modified, of 
course, by the surroundings. We had a 
president, a judge, a sheriff, and other 
officers. If a man showed a particular 
aptitude for the exercise of any function, 
he was remembered for it, and when he 
came back again to the prison he was 

In Prison 131 

elected to the office, if it were at all 
possible. The warders never interfered 
with the laws of the prisoners. 

One of the laws of the cell was that no 
man should steal another's bread. The 
punishment for this crime was a severe 
flogging with a belt, "paddling," as it was 
called. Whilst I was there, a man did 
steal another man's bread/ He was found 
out and tried for the offence. The judge 
of the cell appointed me as counsel for 
the defence. The trial was rather long, 
and was as serious as a trial could be. 
The issue at stake was a grave one, and 
was treated in the same spirit that a grave 
issue would be in a recognised court of 

The chief warder stood at the door of 
the cell, listening to the trial. 

I cross-examined the witnesses for the 
prosecution. I must say that the judge 
allowed me rather a free hand. And in 
the end I won my case. My speech for 
the defence was applauded, and the man 
was let go. 

132 A Man Adrift 


How clear and beautiful was the sky 
above us in the great yard where we 
spent the day ! We would walk or lounge 
about, or sit down and tell each other our 
histories with the frankness of men under 
a common ban. There was one man in 
particular, who had spent a good deal of 
time in prisons. He was a burglar a 
most intelligent-looking man, with blue 
eyes and an indomitable expression of 
face. He talked of burglary as a man 
would talk of any other profession. He 
knew every twist and turn of it when 
to break into a house the kind of house 
to break into, and so on. I could not 
help thinking that his was a profession 
which called into play a tremendous amount 
of daring and natural talent. The burglar 
had been ignominiously gathered in with 
the rest of us, because he, too, could not 
show ten dollars. 

Also there was a young English fellow 
from Birmingham. He was little more 

In Prison 133 

than a boy. He had a fine, open face, 
with blue eyes, a trifle hard. This young 
fellow had been a highway robber, and I 
seemed to take his fancy. He thought 
that we would do well if we took the road 
together. It took two, he explained, to 
hold up a man properly one to cover him 
with the pistol, while the other saw that 
he turned out all his wealth. I must 
confess that the idea had for me a great 
charm.. And at the worst I would have 
the consolation of knowing that I had got 
into gaol for doing something. Besides, 
one could live well, and there was the 
excitement of never knowing what would 
turn up next. 

Though there was hardly any disci- 
pline, still the breaking of the few 
prison-rules that did exist was punished 
terribly. Men were bound up and tor- 
tured in a contrivance called the stocks. 
The stocks was really a rack. A man 
was tied up, laid upon it, and tortured by 
means of stretching and twisting the 
joints of his legs. The place where this 
racking was done was in a small shanty 

134 A Man Adrift 

painted black which stood off over in 
the corner of the yard. I never saw a 
man racked, but I have seen a man 
hustled into the shanty ; and afterwards 
I have heard him groaning and screaming. 
The screaming of a man in agony is a 
thing that can never be forgotten. 

The effect upon us as we listened to it 
in the yard was awful. We stood in 
groups, cowed and disheartened, for no 
one knew whose turn would come next. 
The cries of the tortured man seemed to 
get into the blood, and affect the beating 
of the heart The cowed negroes and 
whites would look at each other fear- 
fully. In these horrible moments even 
the sense of distinction of race was lost. 
We were fellow-prisoners before we were 
negroes or whites. 

After being tortured the man would be 
taken to the hospital. 

I came near being racked myself 
through having a quarrel with a negro. 
We had some dispute, and the negro 
called me " a white son of a ." Com- 
ing from the mouth of a black man, this 

In Prison 135 

insult was the most odious imaginable. 
According to the feeling of white men in 
the Southern States I would have been 
justified in shooting him dead, if possible. 

I stepped back, and then jumped at 
the negro, striking him twice in the face. 
He went down. Then I stood over him, 
ready to knock him down when he got 
up again. But here I made a mistake, 
for the negro, instead of getting up 
simply turned his body round and got 
upon his hands and knees. I had no 
idea what he was up to, and as I was 
backing away from him he suddenly 
flung his arms round my ankles, raised 
himself, and flung me clean over his 
head. Before I could realise it I was 
lying on my back, with the negro's weight 
upon me. Both my shoulders were touch- 
ing flat on the ground, and try as I might 
I was unable to move. I was completely 
at my opponent's mercy. I had fallen a 
victim to a trick commonly practised by 
the roustabouts. 

I looked up at the negro and waited. 
His fist was raised, but he didn't strike. 

136 A Man Adrift 

As I was wondering what would be the 
reason of this, he got up from me 
suddenly and helped me to my feet. The 
black man was magnanimous. He 
spared me. 

The whole thing was over in a few 
seconds. For some reason or another 
the black captain of the yard who was 
standing near ignored the fight. 

Just as the crowd that had collected 
around us was dispersing, the chief 
warder came running up. His eyes 
blazed as he laid his hand heavily on 
my shoulder. I was in for it, I thought. 
"Who struck first?" he demanded. The 
man who struck first would be the man 
to be racked! 

" I did," I said. 

I felt my time had come. I would be 
tortured. And fear came over me as I 
looked into the warder's face. " It's a 
damned good job you're a white man," 
he said, as he turned away. This was 
the end of the incident. My colour had 
saved me. 

On Sundays we attended Divine Ser- 

In Prison 137 

vice. We all looked forward to this, for 
it was a pleasure and a relief to feel that 
one was a man once more, if only for an 
hour. We knelt before the altar on the 
same terms as other men. And indeed 
the founder of our religion was One who 
was hard up and despised. His image 
was there before us, showing Him as He 
suffered an awful and ignominious death. 
He would have understood us absolutely. 
The Man whose name would live while 
the world lasted had been a tramp and 
a criminal. 

Strange thoughts used to come into 
my mind as I listened to the rich, full 
tones of the organ playing in the little 
prison church. I wondered what I should 
do when I got out into the world again. 
Would it be better for me to work like a 
dog and a slave, or would it be better for 
me to go and rob and live easy, and take 
my chance? Or would some curious 
stroke of luck happen to me that would 
lift me out of my present groove? 
Honesty and labouring with the hands 
only brought degradation and contempt. 

138 A Man Adrift 

The society in which we lived was based 
upon the principle of theft. Not such 
theft as the burglar's theft, but mean, 
cowardly, safe theft. Christ would sooner 
have taken the hand of the burglar than 
the hand of the business man. The 
meanest and worst criminals got off scot- 
free. It was said that vengeance over- 
took them. But it was only said. As 
a rule the criminals who were put in 
prison were those whose crimes savoured 
somewhat of nobility. To conquer the 
world, cunning, fraud, and underhand 
violence had to be used. What was the 
use of blinking the fact? I thought. 
Ministers of religion were traitors who 
warped the teachings of Christ so that 
themselves and the State might profit. 

Or could it be, I thought again, that 
to follow out the teaching of the Galilean 
was impossible? Could it be that 
cowardly theft and meanness, and lying, 
and undtrhand violence was the right 
thing after all ? Was even the very 
essence of Religion but a subtle 
hypocrisy ? 

In Prison 139 

ONE day a murder was committed by 
one of the warders. I saw it done with 
my own eyes. Nothing was ever said 
about it. The body was trundled away, 
and no questions asked. 

A prisoner was suffering 1 from pellagra. 
He ought to have been sent at once to 
the hospital, but this warder thought it 
would be fun to give him a cold bath. 
He was taken into the bath-house, stripped, 
and a stream of Mississippi water was 
played upon him from the hose. To fully 
understand what effect this water would 
have if used even upon a strong man, I 
need only state that the water of the river 
was not far from freezing point, while the 
temperature of the air was about eighty 
degrees. The water must have been at 
least forty degrees colder than the sur- 
rounding air. Besides, the man was 
already in a weak, exhausted condition. 

The warder played the hose upon him 
as he crouched and shivered in the bath, 

140 A Man Adrift 

and he was dead in less than a minute. 
I saw the whole thing, for I was in the 
bath-house at the time, cleaning up the 
floor. I knew the man was dead by the 
huddled-up way in which he was lying. 
The warder was still playing the hose 
upon him. "Let up," I said. "He's 

The warder stopped the hose and came 
over to the side of the bath. " Are you 
sure ? " he asked me. " Isn't he sham- 
ming ? " 

I reached, and turned the dead man 
over on his side, and placed my hand 
over his heart. It was still. The man 
had gone. 

" Dead as a stone," I said to the warder. 

" Lift him out, then," he ordered. 

I got into the bath and lifted out the 

And this was the end of him. The 
warder's " Lift him out, then," was his 
burial service. Nothing more was said 
either about him or over him. A cart 
was brought, and I lifted the murdered 
man in, and he was trundled away, I 

In Prison 141 

don't know where, just as if he were a 



Curiously enough, when the end of the 
month drew near, I did not feel as much 
elation as I thought I should feel at the 
prospect of getting my liberty again. I 
suppose in time one would get used to 
almost any set of surroundings. The 
thing that I thought of most was the 
chance I would have of getting a full 
meal again. To be hungry straight on 
end for a whole month is terrible. But 
where would I get the meal from when 
I did get out. I had no money, and 
there was no one to whom I could go 
in New Orleans. Still, I would be glad 
to have my liberty. But I had grown to 
like some of my fellow-prisoners. Going 
out would mean parting from them. I 
felt that I would drift away from the 
two men who would be let out with me 
on the same day. Companionship means 
a lot to a man who drifts about the world 

So when the morning came for my 

142 A Man Adrift 

release I felt rather sad. And somehow 
I felt afraid to face things again. The 
month's forced inaction had lessened my 
power of initiative. The surroundings 
and the bad food had taken the spirit 
out of me. 

The young Birmingham fellow had 
gone out a couple of days before. He 
said he would be on hand to meet me 
when I came out. But I felt that this 
was rather a forlorn hope. Besides, it 
struck me that I had better face circum- 
stances alone. And who could tell what 
might turn up? I might on the corner 
of a street find a purse ! Then I would 
go and buy myself a good breakfast 
a first-class breakfast and after I would 
get myself some clothes. The ones I had 
on were common and shabby-looking. It 
would be a fine thing to walk around, 
clean, and feeling like a man once more. 

My spirits began to rise. 

I shook hands with my mates in the 
cell when the warder came to unlock the 
door. He called out my name with some 
others, and we followed him out into 

In Prison 143 

the yard and into the office of the prison. 
Here, after some formality, we were let 
out through the great gate. 

As I crossed the street a woman who 
was passing by looked at me curiously, 
and, I thought, pityingly. A feeling of 
shame came over me, and I hurried away 
as fast as I could. 


I WAS puzzled as to what to do. The 
country was flooded, and there seemed 
to be no chance for me to go in the 
direction I wished to go. Water, water 
was everywhere the yellow water of the 
Mississippi. The big river had made a 
twelve-hundred-yard crevasse in the levee 
below New Orleans. It was swallowing 
up the country from three directions 
the south, the east, the west. The only 
way of escape was by a narrow strip of 
hill-land which ran to the north up into 

I wanted to go east, to New Orleans. 
But between me and the town was a 
two-hundred-mile sheet of water. The 
water was so high that steamboats were 
plying over the country between Bayou 
Sale and New Orleans. Bayou Sale 
was the place where I was at. The fact 

No Money 145 

of the steamboats running to where I 
wanted to go did not help me, however. 
And there was a good and sufficient 
reason. I had no money to pay my 

I cursed my luck for being in Louisiana 
during the flood season. If things had 
been all right I could have tramped it. 
But to swim it was a large order. So 
I began to think. 

Passing me were niggers and their 
families carrying what they could of 
their belongings up the narrow strip of 
hill-land. They were homeless. They 
had been flooded out. Those who had 
the money to pay their way were going 
to New Orleans on the steamboats. 
But the great majority of them were 
going up north the way I didn't want 
to go. 

Suddenly the way out of the difficulty 
flashed upon me. What a fool I had 
been ! Why, it was as easy as rolling 
off a log. 

A steamboat was to go to New Orleans 
in half an hour. She was moored to a 


146 A Man Adrift 

tree which stood on the top of a slight 
rise in the ground. The nigger roust- 
abouts were getting freight aboard her, 
and the big white mate was blaspheming 
horribly at them as was the custom. 

I swaggered on to the steamboat with 
an air of lordly ease. You'd have thought 
I owned it. I nodded to the swearing, 
raucous-voiced mate. My plan was a 
simple one. The collector would not 
come round for fares till the boat had 
been out at least an hour. Then I 
would tell him calmly that I had no 
money. They couldn't put me off into 
the water they couldn't turn back and 
they couldn't eat me. The only danger 
was that they might have me arrested 
when we got to New Orleans. This 
would mean a month's imprisonment at 
least. But I had long ago realised that 
one must take some risks to get through 

So I waited. 

As the boat steamed along, one could 
see the awful desolation caused by the 
flood. The country had been covered 

No Money 147 

as with a great winding sheet. The sugar 
crop, houses, property, and everything 
else had been ruined. The bodies of 
horses and cows and sheep were floating 
about. They had either been left behind 
in the hurry, or had become unmanage- 
able when the owners tried to drive them 
up on to the high land. Occasionally a 
wooden house was to be seen floating on 
its side. We passed by immersed towns 
and villages. All that was to be seen of 
them were the tops of the highest houses 
and the spires of their churches. It was 
a scene of ruin and desolation. 

I was awakened from my reverie by 
the collector of fares. He was standing 
in front of me, waiting. The moment 
was at hand. The crisis had come. 
Now I must play my part. 

I looked straight into his eyes, and 
smiled easily. " I have no money," I 
said in a calm, matter-of-fact way. I 
might have been speaking about the 
flood or the weather. I made the 
remark in a casual fashion. 

He smiled also. He thought I was 

148 A Man Adrift 

joking, and Americans have always time 
for the appreciation of a joke. " Of 
course," he said. " That's all right, I 
guess. Come on. Shell out!" He had 
evidently seen my lordly swagger as I 
came on to the boat, and, putting two 
and two together, had come at once to 
the conclusion that when a man of that 
style and ease said he was hard up he 
was surely not in earnest. 

But I gave him a second smile, and 
repeated my assertion. And then the 
smile died from his face. He grasped 
the situation, and became indignant. 

"What in hell do you mean by 
coming aboard the boat, then?" he 

" My dear man," I replied, still smiling, 
" my reason for coming aboard the boat 
must be plain to you. As you will 
probably have noticed, the country is 
flooded. And I can't very well swim to 
New Orleans. I couldn't stop where I 
was, either. So I did the only thing 
left for me to do I came on board." 

"You take it damned easy." ^ 

No Money 149 

"Of course. You don't want me to 
weep about it, do you?" 

" Do you know that we can put you 
in gaol for this ? " 

" Of course I know it. But I have 
weighed all that. Besides, one doesn't 
know what's going to happen. And, 
anyway, I'm not in gaol yet." 

He laughed a little. " You're a beauty," 
he remarked. "Ho!" he shouted to the 
blaspheming, raucous- voiced mate. " This 
fellow's had the gall to come aboard with- 
out the money to pay his fare." 

The mate came forward and eyed me 
from head to foot. I eyed him too. He 
was a big, powerful fellow, with a brutal, 
hard face. 

He let forth a torrent of blasphemy, 
winding up with " I've a good mind to 
knock hell out of you." 

I had taken the man's measure ; in 
fact, I had taken the measure of the 
whole situation. My only chance was 
in playing a stiff, cool, unafraid game. 
There was a risk of my getting used up, 
and getting into gaol into the bargain. 

150 A Man Adrift 

I decided instantly as to the handling 
of the mate. 

" Look here," said I, going up close to 
him, and looking him straight and hard 
,in the eyes. " Don't talk of knocking 
hell out of me. I'd like to see you or 
any other man on the boat try it on. If 
I've broken the law, I'll take the con- 
sequences when I get to New Orleans. 
I had to do what I did, and there's an 
end of it." 

He glared at me, and moved slightly. 
But I kept my eye hard on his. Then 
his face softened a little. " Well, damn 
me, partner, but you've got grit, an) how. 
Perhaps we won't go hard on you. Do 
you mind working your passage?" he 
concluded suddenly. 

" Not a bit," I replied. 

"All right. Come down into the 
stokehole and pass coal, and when we 
get to New Orleans you can help to 
unload freight." 

He brought me down into the stoke- 
hole, and left me with the firemen 
who, by the way, behaved very decently 

No Money 151 

to me. They were white men. A deck- 
hand had brought down news of how I 
had tackled the collector and the mate. 
As everyone was afraid of the mate, my 
stock went up. 

They gave me a stiff pull of whisky 
of which I was in need and they gave 
me some grub. They wouldn't let me 
shovel any coal for them. I just lay and 
chatted till the journey's end. 

When we got there I helped to unload 
the freight, as agreed. And when this 
was done, and I was going down the 
gang-plank, the mate called me back. 

" Here's a quarter," he said. "Get a 
drink." And, taking the quarter with 
thanks, I went ashore, and faced up 
Royal Street. I was in New Orleans. 


I HAD been sailoring on Lake Ontario, 
and was loafing around Toronto, when 
suddenly an idea struck me to go out to 
the Rockies. Going was the easiest 
thing in the world. All one had to do 
was to pay the Canadian Pacific Railroad 
Company a dollar. For this they carried 
you to Fort Donald, in British Columbia 
a place three thousand miles west of 
Toronto. Fort Donald was on the east 
side of the great mountain chain. 

Carrying a man three thousand miles 
for a dollar seems to be a charitable sort 
of deed for a railway company to indulge 
in. But it wasn't so charitable, after all, 
when you came to look into it. They 
simply wanted to ship labourers into the 
Rockies so as to use them for the build- 
ing of snow sheds. A snow shed is a 
great wooden platform built along the 

Through the Rockies 153 

mountain side for the purpose of keeping 
the snow from sliding down on to the 
railway track. 

It took us five days to get to our des- 
tination, and five days 1 continuous rail- 
way travelling is no joke. The, steady, 
swift rumble of the train, going hour 
after hour, day after day, night after 
night, got upon the nerves. I longed 
for the rolling of a sailing vessel, or even 
for the awkward pitching of a steamer in 
heavy weather. It seemed as if the 
smooth, grinding whirr of the wheels 
beneath us would go on for ever. Even 
when the train stopped at a station one 
could still feel this whirr. The brain 
had adopted the sensation permanently. 

The country we passed through was 
wild and fine, and, above all, gave one 
an impression of vastness. A country 
of mountains and great rivers and lakes. 

We stopped at a little town on the edge 
of Lake Superior. Here we got out of 
the train. I, with some others, climbed 
down the rocks to take a drink from the 
lake. The water was the clearest water 

154 A Man Adrift 

I had ever seen, and, although the sun 
shone out strongly, it was cold and 
fresh. Indeed, there was something 
death-like in its coldness. It stretched 
out wide and far like a great sea. Off 
out in it I could see the glint of deep, 
black blue, which tells of immense 
depth. It was a lake I would scarcely 
have liked to sail upon. A beautiful, 
forbidding vast lake, with chill, cold, 
deep waters. I had heard it said that 
whenever a sailor fell overboard from a 
steamer in Lake Superior no effort was 
made to stop and rescue him, for the life 
was chilled out of the man long before a 
boat could be lowered. The waters were 
so cold. 

And then the train went on and on 
till it entered the stretching, immense, 

I had never seen the prairie before. 
It seemed to me almost more wide and 
lone than the ocean itself. Looking out 
upon it brought upon one a sense of 
awe and stillness. A limitless grass- 
covered plain, stretching from horizon 

Through the Rockies 155 

to horizon, and seeming to begin and 
end in eternity. 

At last we came to the foot-hills of the 
Rockies. We were nearing Fort Donald. 
And the foot-hills changed to great, 
rugged mountains. 

Here we were at Fort Donald at last, 
and around us, rising higher and higher, 
were the Rockies ! 

There was nothing for us to do now 
but to go to work building the snow- 
sheds. If a man wouldn't work he 
wouldn't get anything to eat, and therein 
lay the true inwardness of the company's 
reason for carrying men three thousand 
miles for a dollar. When they were in 
Fort Donald the men had to work at the 
snow sheds whether they liked or not. 

We were a mixed-up crowd, hailing 
from all parts of the world. And we got 
on well together, mainly because it was 
almost impossible for us to get whisky. 
Whisky is a bad thing. It makes a man 
forget that the other fellow is a man too. 
I've seen tough things done through 
drinking whisky. 

1 56 A Man Adrift 

A dollar and a half a day was our pay, 
and pay-day came once a month. They 
charged us three dollars and a half a 
week for board. The board was good 
plenty of meat and bread and coffee and 
vegetables. The meals were served up 
in a sort of here-grab-this- when- 1 -throw 
it-at-you way, but mountain air and hard 
work make a man able to forego silver 
and fine napery. 

The work was rough, and we were kept 
at it ten hours a day. Some of us blasted 
out rock from the mountain side, while 
others were felling and sawing up big 
trees. Others again were now and then 
sent out to hunt for fresh meat. The 
mountains were full of big game. 

We were called up at six in the morn- 
ing, and by seven we had had break- 
fast and were just commencing work. 
At twelve we stopped an hour for dinner, 
and after that we kept on till six o'clock 
in the evening. By this time supper 
was ready, and after supper we would 
go over to the big wooden shanty, where 
we slept. There we smoked and told 

Through the Rockies 157 

all sorts of yarns till it was time to 
turn in. 

Every man of us had a bunk to himself. 
This was furnished with a mattress, a 
hard pillow, and two blankets. 

The crowd was interesting. The men 
had not only come from every place, but 
they had come from every class. Here 
was the man who had about him that 
curious air of self poise, the heritage of 
high birth and social advantage. And 
here was the poor, uncouth clod, born with 
the marks of labour slavery upon him. 
And here was the man who had left his 
country for his country's good. Taken as 
a whole, however, they impressed me as a 
crowd of good, hard men a crowd that a 
strong man might lead to the freeing of a 
country, or to the crushing of a country. 

I remember one fellow he was an 
Englishman who had a beautiful tenor 
voice. I shall never forget the first time 
I heard him sing. It was in the evening, 
when we were near to the end of our day's 
work. He and I had been working side 
by side in the pickaxe gang. Suddenly 

158 A Man Adrift 

he began to sing, and I was thrilled as I 
had never been thrilled before, or, indeed, 
since, though I have heard the finest 
Italian singers in the world. All of us 
stopped working at once. He was sing- 
ing an old English song a beautiful song, 
that will live while the white race lives. 
I can't describe the effect it had upon us 
out there out there in the clear air of the 
wild, lone mountains. 

I asked the Englishman a lot of ques- 
tions after that, but he would tell me 
nothing. I have thought of him many 
times since. Who was he? What was 
he? and why was he there? Poor boy! 
Years have gone by since I heard his 
song in the Rockies. 

I threw up work after two months' time, 
and found myself thirty dollars ahead. I 
wanted to get to the Pacific Coast. I had 
it in my mind to ship somewhere from 
Vancouver. But it was five hundred miles 
away, nearly a month's tramp. 

For thirty dollars I could buy food at the 
Company's stores along the way. Thus 
the main difficulty of the journey was re- 

Through the Rockies 159 

moved. I was all right as long as I 
had money that is, as far as getting 
away from the work was concerned. 

One had to sleep out every night, to be 
sure, and to take chances on being done 
up either by the Indians or wild animals. 
But a hardy man will take big chances 
when he wants to be on the move. And, 
besides, I couldn't miss the Pacific Coast 
by any manner of means, for the Com- 
pany's rails were laid two hundred miles of 
the way, and the right of way, where the 
rails had yet to be laid, would guide me 
right up the coast. 

So I started one morning. I remember 
the morning well. It was clear and bright 
and beautiful in the middle of June. I 
was so glad to get away from the 
monotonous labour, even though I was 
going to I knew not what. Hard labour 
is all very well to talk about, or to preach 
about, but doing it is quite a different 

My outfit consisted of a pair of blankets, 
which were strapped across my back, a 
pannikin, some biscuits and bacon, and 

160 A Man Adrift 

some coffee and sugar. And I was well 
heeled as far as weapons were concerned. 
I carried a forty-four calibred revolver and 
a broad sheath knife, and I had fifty cart- 
ridges in my ammunition belt. To my 
mind a revolver and a knife are the 
handiest weapons going that is, if you've 
got to look out for a surprise, or a brush 
at close quarters. I wouldn't give the 
tenth part of a rap for a rifle. It is 
awkward to handle in a quick rush, and 
you are apt to get done up before you 
know where you are. No, give me a 
revolver or, better still, a good knife. 

I suppose I ought to say something 
about the magnificent scenery of the 
Rockies, but, to tell the truth, at that 
time the scenery impressed me but little. 
It was great and wild and finely coloured. 
But I had had enough mountain scenery 
to last me a lifetime. I had been work- 
ing hard in the middle of it for two 
months. The poetry had been knocked 
out of me. 

Fine scenery doesn't impress a man 
much when he's hungry, or when he's 

Through the Rockies 161 

alone and tired and wondering if he'll 
get out of it alive. The lonesomeness of 
it all is what strikes him in a time like 
this. It is so terrible. It is hard to feel 
that you are absolutely and utterly alone 
that you might fall down and die, and 
there would be no one round to hold a 
cup of water to your lips. 

These frightful, lonely mountains made 
me think. I was face to face with things 
face to face with myself. I used to 
listen to the tramp, tramp of my feet, 
and wonder where I was going, and why I 
was going. I knew I was going to the 
Pacific Coast but what then? I had 
been going ever since I was a lad. And 
I was so tired of it all. What had I 
done that I should be a pariah and a 
labourer and a vagrant ? It seemed to me 
that the main reason was because I be- 
longed to the low, labouring class the 
slave class. I had been thrown out into 
the world without education or any other 
advantage, and I had become a labourer 
on land and sea a human buffet for 

the world's blows. 


1 62 A Man Adrift 

These and other thoughts used to come 
to me in the long, strange days the days 
I was tramping through the mountains. 
And I felt so lonely, too. I began to 
despair. And one day I grew sick of 
the whole business, and I unslung my 
revolver and determined to take a rest 
for good and all. I had seen men shot 
through the brain, and I knew exactly 
what the effect was like. One jumped 
violently, and then one sank down like a 
rag, and over the face came a peaceful 
look. A distorted face is more apt to 
come from a jagged knife wound that 
lets the life out slowly. 

I mapped it out, all out, in my mind, 
and I put the muzzle of the revolver 
under my right ear so as to get the base 
of the brain. 

But just as I put my finger on the 
trigger I began to think in a way I had 
never thought before. My whole life, 
and everything I had done in it, sud- 
denly came up before my mind. Every- 
thing was so clear and vivid. I seemed 
to see things from many sides at once. 

Through the Rockies 163 

This is the way that men think when 
they are drowning, I thought. And I 
brought down the muzzle of the revolver. 
But I intended to kill myself neverthe- 
less. However, I'd try and analyse my 
feelings first. And I sat down on a log 
and wondered. Why shouldn't I kill my- 
self? What was there before me but 
misery and hard knocks? People said 
that everyone in the world got at some 
time or another a square chance. Honestly, 
I felt that I had never had such a chance. 
I had been born in the mire, and I had 
stayed in the mire. 

No, it had not been my own fault, I 
felt. I had been moulded and crushed 
to a certain shape by circumstances. I 
was no more to blame for being what I 
was than the Indian was to blame for being 
what he was, despite what any well-fed 
liar from the pulpit had to say about it. 

And I stood up again and cursed the 
earth and everything in it. And I felt 
that the time would come when men of 
my breed men from the gutter would 
get even with it. 

164 A Man Adrift 

I put the muzzle of the revolver against 
my head for the second time, and then 
well, something came over me. I couldn't 
tell what it was I couldn't tell even to 
this day. It wasn't fear; it wasn't re- 
morse. I just wanted to live just wanted 
to live for no particular reason. 

I suppose it was the lonesomeness of 
the whole thing that got me into this 
frame of mind. I saw faces, to be sure, 
at the company's stations, but it was only 
for a few moments just long enough for 
me to buy what food I wanted. 

Somehow, I think it would have been 
better for me if I had seen no one at 
all through the whole tramp. Then I 
might have got more used to being utterly 

I was never bothered at all by the 
Indians, though I saw them, too, occa- 
sionally ; but they either paid no attention 
to me or they greeted me in a friendly 
way. I have been bothered by Indians 
at other times, though. As a rule Indians 
are all right if we white men will let them 
alone. They are not blessed with civilisa- 

Through the Rockies 165 

tion but they never allow any of their 
tribe to starve as long as they have food 
to give them. They are much more 
Christian in this respect than we are. 
And still we send missionaries out to 

One day, about noon-time, 1 heard a 
sound that froze me to the marrow with 
fear. It was a rattlesnake that had come 
out on to the middle of the track to sun 
itself. The bright steel of the rails had 
attracted it Sbrrr! Sbrrr! Its rattle 
was going at a furious rate. The sound 
of my footsteps had disturbed it 

I had never seen a rattlesnake before, 
and after I had got over my first impulse 
of fear I began to study it I knew it 
was a rattler because it tallied with the 
descriptions I had heard of it. Besides, 
it is well known that they are the only 
snakes in the North-west that will dispute 
the path with you. The other snakes 
glide away at the sound of a footstep. 

Its head was raised about four inches 
from the ground, and was swaying to and 
fro. Its mouth was wide open, and out 

1 66 A Man Adrift 

of it the fangs were shooting. It wasn't 
coiled up, as you see snakes coiled up in 
pictures. Its colour was a sort of dirty 
dark grey. It must have been about five 
feet long. 

The look in its eyes was enough to 
make a man turn sick and die. 

I fired a shot at it, and though I broke 
the ground within an inch of it it never 
moved a peg out of the way. It still kept 
swaying its head and rattling. This 
touched me a little. The snake was game 
and I like to come across anything 
that's game. You are not often allowed 
the privilege. 

I was going to fire at it a second time, 
but I thought I'd let it alone. After all 
it was in its own country, and would 
harm no one if not bothered. I was an 
intruder there anyway. So I got off the 
track and walked half round it. I had 
to keep a close eye on it, however, for 
it wheeled slowly round with me, watch- 
ing me. 

When night came on, my plan was to 
collect a big pile of dried branches and 

Through the Rockies 167 

make a fire. Then I'd cook myself some 
grub, and after I had eaten I'd have a 
smoke. After my smoke I would spread 
a blanket on the ground, and lay my knife 
and revolver near where my head was 
going to rest, so that I could grab them 
at once if need be. I covered myself up 
with the other blankets just as I lay 
down, and then I would drop off 
to sleep before you could say Jack 

I didn't dream at all. I was 
too tired with the tramping and the 

Sleeping out in the open air is the finest 
thing a man can do. You become as 
strong and as hard as an animal. People 
live too much in houses. 

Just as dawn was breaking, I would 
waken up. Then I would cook my 
breakfast over the remains of the fire, 
eat, pack my blankets and get on the 

Afcer many days tramping I came to 
a little settlement on the north fork of 
the Fraser River. It was called Yale. 

1 68 A Man Adrift 

Though I didn't go much on scenery just 
then, I must say the look of the mountains 
here impressed me. It seemed to me as 
if I were in the biggest church one could 
think of a church without a roof. The 
mountains were the biggest I had ever 
seen, and they stood up almost as straight 
as pillars. The tops of them were covered 
with snow, and half way down one of 
them was a glacier that had taken a 
thousand years to form. 

Down in the valley the river tore along 
horribly. It was one of the ugliest and 
wickedest-looking pieces of water I had 
ever seen. If you fell in here you had 
no more chance of swimming than you 
would have in the Maelstrom. You were 
lost. It was more awful -looking than 
the mid -ocean in a hurricane, because 
beneath it all one could feel there was 

Here I had a go at salmon fishing. I 
saw a Si wash Indian on the top of a rock 
hauling up salmon out of the rapids. 
His way of doing it was simple. He just 
thrust an immense landing net down 

Through the Rockies 169 

into the water, and a salmon would run 
into it. The water was packed with the 
fish. They were working their way up 

Three guy-ropes were fastened to the 
frame of the net to keep it steady in the 
rushing water. The ropes were hitched 
to a tree that stood off over on the 

Big salmon they were, too some of 
them thirty-five and forty pounders. When 
one of them got into the net the Indian 
knew about it. It looked as if the guy- 
ropes were going to snap. 

When the Indian hauled up the strug- 
gling, fighting salmon on to the top of 
the rock he brained it by giving it 
a light tap on the head with a small 

I asked the Indian to let me have a 
try at it, and he did. The first salmon 
I hauled up nearly cost me my life, for 
it almost knocked me into the rapids, 
and once in the rapids I would have 
been smashed into smithereens on the 

170 A Man Adrift 

This salmon was a big fellow, and I 
was foolish enough to pick him up in 
my arms, just to see how strong an up- 
stream salmon really was. I want no 
more of it. I thought I was grappling 
with a mountain lion. A man was 
nothing to it. I didn't know where I 
was. I only knew that I was getting a 
hard flinging about somewhere or another. 
I held on though^ till the Indian got in 
one of his light taps on the head of the 
salmon. This soothed him. 

I hauled up about twenty fish, and I 
must say it was great sport, and dangerous 
sport, too, for if you got knocked off the 
rocks it was all up with you. 

At this part of my journey I had got a 
long way past the point where the com- 
pany's rails were laid. I was in the right 
of way, or cutting, where the line had yet 
to come. My journey was nearly over. 
I had crossed the summit of the big 
mountain chain. From then on it was 
a gradual slope to the coast. The moun- 
tains got smaller. The lonesome feeling 
left me. 

Through the Rockies 171 

And one morning as I rounded the turn 
of a gorge I saw off in the distance a 
great shining stretch of water. It was 
the Pacific. 


KAMLOOPS was a rough town. The men 
that drift here and there and everywhere 
had made it for the time their abiding 
place for in the mountains beyond it was 
to be found gold. Few found it, though ; 
and as I was not one of that few, I had 
to go to work on the railroad which was 
being built away out through the mountains. 
I was in the gang that laid the steel. 

The work was lively. Four of us had 
to pick up and carry thirty-foot steel rails 
in a hot sun. Three dollars and a half a 
day was the rate at which we were paid. 
We got our wages on the fifteenth of 
every month, and when the money came 
we took a day or so off to spend it. We 
painted Kamloops red while it lasted, 
and hard things used to happen. I re- 

Maxwell 173 

member when the Marshal and his 
deputies got fresh, and arrested Bruce 
for just nothing at all. He was a nice 
fellow a University man but I suppose 
he had cut up rough at home in England, 
and had had to get out. I felt sorry to 
have to see him go along with the Marshal 
and his men, but they had got the drop 
on us, and in that country it was shoot if 
you moved. The crowd had been a trifle 
noisy in Kelly's saloon that was all. 
But that night six or seven of us heeled 
ourselves, and made for the calaboose. 
With an axe I smashed in the door, and 
we got Bruce out. The Marshal and his 
gang interfered, to be sure. But that's 
neither here nor there. 

We lived in batches of six or seven in 
small rough log-houses, which we called 
" shacks," and which we built ourselves. 
One of us would stay at home and cook 
the grub while the rest were working on 
the track. At this we took turn about. 

One night, as we were smoking our 
pipes round the fire, two men came up to 
the door of our shack. They were in 

174 A Man Adrift 

soldier's uniform, and they frankly told us 
that they had deserted from Indian Creek, 
a post two hundred miles away. Their 
object, they s'aid, was to get to the United 
States, where they would be safe. We 
sympathised with them, and did our level 
best to make them comfortable. One gave 
his name as Cox, the other as Maxwell. 

They said they belonged to Toronto, 
Canada, where they had enlisted. They 
had deserted from the post because the 
discipline was hard. Maxwell could not 
have been more than twenty years old. 
He was tall, well formed, and had a fine, 
frank face. Altogether, he was a young 
fellow whose appearance one would be apt 
to like. He was home-sick, spoke of his 
mother and his wish to see her, but that it 
would be impossible now that he was a 
deserter. He would have to try his luck 
in the States. I felt sorry for him. 

Cox might have been twenty-five years 
old. He was of middle height and of a 
wiry build. He had keen black eyes, and 
a foxy expression of face. 

Their next point was Yale, a place thirty 

Maxwell 175 

miles away, They hoped to reach it by 
the following night. 

After smoking and chatting awhile, all 
hands, including the deserters, turned in. 
We were tired. 

Morning came, and with it a complica- 
tion. Jimmy Murphy strongly objected 
to our guests leaving. And as he had 
twenty dollars planted away since last 
month's pay-day, he proposed a holiday. 
Rails would be laid after we were dead, 
he said. 

Our guests, not being able to withstand 
his logic, stayed, and we had a roaring 
time. On in the afternoon we got a boat, 
and rowed out into Kamloops Lake. Full 
of whisky and the devil, I jumped on the 
gunwale of the boat, and overturned it. 
Luckily, all hands could swim. As for 
myself, filled with a crazy notion, I faced 
for the centre of the lake, which at this 
point was a good deal over a mile wide. 
I felt the sudden sense of great power 
that often comes to the drunken. I would 
have hurled myself into a Niagara, or into 
a hell. 

176 A Man Adrift 

I was swimming to certain death, for 
close to the lake's centre was a powerful 
current, which would have carried me 
down into the rapids, where I would 
have been torn to pieces on sharp, 
jutting rocks. But I had not gone very 
far before I was clutched by the collar, 
and dragged round. It was Maxwell, 
who had swum after me. He saw the 
danger my mad spell was bringing me to. 
He brought me to reason, and I turned, 
and swam back with him. To him I owe 
my life. 

The next day came, and we went back 
to work. The soldiers left us to go on 
to Yale. 

Two months after this I was singing in 
the Globe Hotel in Vancouver. The 
hotel in the evening was turned into a 
concert hall, and I was engaged as a 
baritone. I had a fair voice, and I knew 
something of music. I sang on the stage 

Maxwell 177 

in the same rough sailor rig I had worn 
when working on the railroad. Singing 
was easier than laying rails. 

I got on well with the audience. They 
were indeed a mixed -up, cosmopolitan 
crowd hailing from everywhere. But 
the tie of the vagabond bound them all 
together. And they were good fellows, 
who would share up with the stranger. 

After singing I got big applause. I 
sang again. Then I went in amongst 
the audience and sat down with some 
fellows I knew to take a drink. I was 
hardly seated before I was touched on 
the shoulder. I turned round. It was 
Cox. He had got rid of his uniform. 

"By God, Reddy!" he exclaimed. 
"You've got a great voice.'* 

"Oh, that's all right," I said. "Sit 
down and have a drink. Where's your 
pardner, Maxwell?" 

His face changed colour. 

" Maxwell," he repeated after me, as he 
looked at me curiously. " Haven't you 
heard ? " 

"Heard what?" 


178 A Man Adrift 

" Why he's condemned to be hung. " 

" Hung hung!" I said, slowly. " What 
for ? " and I looked straight at him. 

"Why he and two other fellows were 
tried and condemned to death in New 
Westminster for knocking a man cold 
and taking away his money in Yale." 

" Oh, yes ! " interrupted one of the men 
sitting at the table. "You mean the 
young, good-looking fellow who deserted 
from Indian Creek. He's going to be 
hung with the other two I can't re- 
member their names next week. Why 
Reddy" to me "you must have been 
asleep not to have heard about it." 

"Yes," put in another, "and I think 
the trial was a damned fraud, anyway. 
The old circumstantial evidence gag, you 
know. The men were in the neighbour- 
hood at the time of the murder, and a 
numbskull of a doctor said that their 
clothes were spattered with human blood. 
I guess they're done for, anyway. I'll bet 
my head to a cent, though, that the 
Indians killed the man." 

I sat there, not knowing what to say. 

Maxwell 179 

I was bewildered. My head was turning. 
Why I was so affected was rather a 
mystery to me, for often in my various 
knockings round in tough, out-of-the-way 
places I had seen men fight and kill each 
other for nothing at all. I had become 
hardened to scenes of violence. But for 
this young fellow who had got into trouble 
I felt a liking from the first I saw of him. 
I had often thought of him. There was 
something fine in his face. Besides, he 
had saved my life. 

I said to Cox : 

"The boy has come across a tough 
streak of luck. Where did you leave him ? " 

" Oh, about two or three days after we 
were with you in the shack," he answered. 
" We got to Yale on the night of the day 
we started from you fellows. We had 
hard work to make it, though. Thirty 
miles isn't easy. The next day after we 
got there Maxwell got on a tear, and the 
day after that, as he wouldn't leave Yale, I 
left him there. You know I was scared. 
I didn't know what minute the troopers 
from Indian Creek would be on our necks. 

180 A Man Adrift 

The next time I saw him was when they 
were trying him for murder in New 

" It's a wonder they didn't pull you, too," 
remarked someone. 

"Well, I guess they would have," said 
Cox, "only that I wasn't round Yale when 
the thing happened. But, say, boys, I'm 
going. So long, Reddy. See you again, 

some time." 

He rose and walked to the door. I 
followed him, and, laying my hand upon 
his shoulder, said : 

"Say, Cox, can't you tell me anything 
more about Maxwell ? What you've told 
me about him has upset me knocked me 
out. Where are you going ? And when 
shall I see you again ? " 

"Well, I'm goin' to get out of here at 
four o'clock in the morning on a schooner 
to Tacoma. You see, I've got to get into 
the States, for I'm liable to be pulled here 
any minute for desertion. I'm sorry I 
mentioned Indian Creek over at table 
yonder. You can't tell who's round. 
Besides, to tell you the God's truth, I'm 

Maxwell 1 8 1 

dead skeary about this business of Max- 
well's. I wasn't round at the time, I 
know, but then nobody knows what's 
going to happen." 

"Well, then/' said I, "if that's the case, 
you'd better get right out. It's none of 
my business where you were. But I'm 
sorry about Maxwell. Do you think he 
was in it ? " 

" I don't ; I'm certain he wasn't. He's 
a good fellow, and, anyway, the killing was 
too mean a business for a soldier to be 
mixed up in. Why the man was found 
with his head battered in, and his body all 
smashed up. The doctor said it was the 
work of a club, and that was about the 
only true thing he did say." 

I looked at him. 

" I wonder if anything could be done for 
Maxwell?" I asked. 

" I don't know." 

"When was the murder committed?" 

" The papers say on June the loth, 
about midday," 

" I think I'll try and see Maxwell," I 

1 82 A Man Adrift 

" Well, you'll find him in the peniten- 
tiary at New Westminster. I don't think, 
though, that they'll let you in to see him. 
But,'so long, Reddy, I've got to go,'* and 
he disappeared. 

All night long I couldn't sleep. 

I kept seeing Maxwell's face. I could 
see its softened expression as he talked of 
his home away off in Canada, where his 
mother sorrowed for him. Again I could 
see its determined look as he pulled me 
around in my mad swim in Kamloops 
Lake. The boy was surely no coward, 
and this murder was low and cowardly. 
He had nothing to do with it not he! 
And if he had well, I couldn't bear to 
think of that. 

No, it must have been the work of 
someone else. He was around when 
they were going to make an arrest, and 
so he had got into the scrape. The trouble 
was this ; the limbs of the law wanted to 
show how clever they were in ferreting 
out murder on the frontier. I had known 
policemen, marshals, and others like them, 
to put up a job on an innocent man, 

Maxwell 183 

and have him hung solely for the purpose 
of showing that they were smart. 

On the morning of the next day I made 
full inquiries. To my surprise, the first 
thing I found out was that Cox had made 
a mistake as to the date. The murder 
had been committed, not on June the 
loth, but on June the nth. 

And the names of the men who were 
convicted along with Maxwell were 
Derose and Connors. The only evidence 
that the law had against them was the 
fact of a marshal swearing to the seeing 
of them in Yale on the day of the murder. 
Added to this was the doctor's unsup- 
ported assertion that their clothes were 
stained with human blood. 

All the while I was thinking of the 
whole business, the date which Cox had 
given me of the day of the murder kept 
continually coming to me. The loth of 
June, the loth of June, seemed to ring 
in my ears. It was the wrong date, and 
why it should come to me so persistently 
was puzzling. Something curious was 
working in my mind. I stopped 

184 A Man Adrift 

thinking of the murder, and tried to 
analyse it. 

Suddenly a light broke in on me. 
Where was I on the loth of June ? This 
question seemed all at once to be put 
to me by something outside myself. 
" Where were you ? Where were you ? 
Where were you?" it said. 

As if to answer it, a series of mind- 
pictures flashed before me. They were 
intensely vivid, and presented the happen- 
ings of that day at Kamloops Lake. 

I had it! I saw it all ! On the loth of 
June Maxwell was with us at the shack. 
It was the day when I jumped on the 
gunwale of the boat and overturned it. 
On the midday of the nth, the time of 
the murder, it was impossible for him to 
have been in Yale. He and Cox must 
have been only six or eight miles from 
Kamloops, for, as I now remembered, 
they had not left us till nine o'clock that 
morning, and by no chance could they 
have reached Yale before late that night. 
The Canadian Pacific right of way was 
ugly travelling, and, as no rails had at 

Maxwell 185 

that time been laid past Kamloops, they 
must have had to walk every step of the 

My heart gave a leap. Here was a 
clear case of alibi. I could save the boy. 
Jimmy Murphy was in town, and he could 
back up my testimony. So I determined 
to go and see the Governor of the peni- 
tentiary in New Westminster, and lay the 
case before him. 

But was I sure of all this ? Yes ! I 
remembered distinctly that four days after 
Cox and Maxwell had left us we were paid 
off, and our pay-day was on the fifteenth 
of every month. After that Murphy and 
I had tramped it to Vancouver. 

I soon found Murphy, and I told him 
all about it, and of my intention to go 
and see the Governor of the penitentiary. 
Murphy remembered the date of Maxwell's 
stay with us as exactly as I did, and he 
said that he would help me all he could. 
By this time some wind of my intention 
had got round amongst the boys, and 
there was quite an excitement. 

I started for New Westminster. 

1 86 A Man Adrift 

New Westminster was just twelve miles 
from Vancouver, and the road to it lay 
through a thick, dark forest. In three 
hours I was there. 

After a lot of difficulty I was granted 
an interview with the Governor. He had 
been a colonel in the British Army, and 
was a man with cold blue eyes and a 
strong face. He listened to what I had 
to say, and after some thought, granted 
me permission to see Maxwell. 

I was to see him that night in the 
presence of two gaolers, and to talk to 
him as to his whereabouts at the time 
of the murder. If he supported what I 
had said, without receiving any cue, the 
Governor would see about taking further 

When night came I was brought to 
the door of his cell. I felt nervous 
and curious as the door opened. I 

There was Maxwell. He was heavily 
manacled, but stood up in a bold, erect 
way. The manacles, which he grasped 
firmly with his left hand, so that he could 

Maxwell 187 

move easily, had a blue glisten. They 
looked new. 

He looked better handsomer than 
when I had seen him last. But his eyes 
were shining strangely. 

" Who is this ? " he asked, pointing to 

" It's a friend of yours, who has come to 
see if he can do you any good, said one 
of the gaolers. 

" Maxwell," 1 said, stepping forward, 
and holding out my hand. 

As I spoke he recognised me. 

" Oh, it's you Reddy," taking my hand. 
" I'm glad to see you." 

I said nothing, but I looked into his 

The gaoler then hinted to him in a 
cautious way the reason of my visit, and 
said it might benefit him to answer my 

* Certainly/* he said. " I can't be any 
worse off than I am. What do you want 
to ask me, Reddy ? " 

I looked at him again. "You remember 
Kamloops?" I said. 

A Man Adrift 

"Yes! I swam after you in the lake 
He smiled slightly. "Where's Murphy 
and the other boys?" 

"Oh, Murphy's in Vancouver, and I 
don't know where the rest drifted to," said 
I. And we talked on in this strain for 
a little while. 

" Maxwell, I'd like to speak to you 
about your whereabouts on the nth of 
June," I said. 

The gaolers looked keenly at us both. 
They were looking to see that I didn't 
give Maxwell any sign as to the way he 
should answer my question. 

Maxwell suddenly sat down on his 
bed. He covered his face with his 
hands. The manacles gave a clank. 
" The dates ! The dates ! " he muttered, 
in an unsteady way, "They run before 


He looked up again. His face was 
convulsing with mania. I understood 
now the meaning of the look that I had 
noticed in his eyes when I entered the 
cell. He was mad, and his madness 
hinged on the idea of this date the date 

Maxwell 189 

that had occurred to me so suddenly and 
strangely when I was thinking of him the 
day before in Vancouver. My question 
had set him off. He rose up and shouted 
out : 

" On the nth of June, at the time of 
the murder, I was in Yale. But I am 
innocent. Who are you who asks me 
questions ? Damn you all ! Get out of 
here!" And he sprang at one of the 
gaolers and knocked him down. 


He was got under, after a hard and 
dangerous scuffle. 

The next day I went to the Governor 
again, and asserted that Maxwell's saying 
that he was in Yale at the time of the 
murder was due to the giving way of his 
mind through the strain put upon him, 
and that I and others could prove that 
his being there was an impossibility. 

" The man admits that he was there 
at the time," the Governor said, coldly, 
" and that is the end of it." 

This was all the satisfaction I could 
get. I went back to Vancouver and told 
Murphy. We were all broke up over it 

190 A Man Adrift 

knowing as we did that he must be 

Afterwards we learned that Maxwell's 
sentence was commuted to penal servitude 
for life, because of insanity. i left 
Vancouver soon after, and since then I 
have drifted about and seen and known 
many strange things. 

But I have often wondered and thought 
about Maxwell. 


I LEFT Yokohama one April on the 
barque Seraph. She was 1700 tons 
burthen, and was bound for Vancouver 
with a cargo of tea. I was one of the 
crew, which, all told, counted ten hands. 
We had quite a slow and uninteresting 
time of it, as she was a typical lime-juicer, 
and I need hardly say that we were elated 
when, after a trip of seventy-five days, 
we rounded Cape Flattery and entered 
the Straits of Juan de Fuca. 

Perhaps I ought to explain that a lime- 
juicer is a deep-water or long-voyage ship, 
where you get nothing but your pound and 
your pint, and where you get lime-juice 
for the good of your health. The lime- 
juice is alleged to be a preventative against 
scurvy, and I must say that the taste of 

192 A Man Adrift 

it is ugly enough to prevent anything. 
The captains and mates of this class of 
vessel are invariably crusted cranks who 
have forgotten all about everything 
but sheets and ropes and sails and the 
tricks of wind and water and weather. 
The salt has entered their souls. 

However, we were in the Straits, and a 
pilot boarded us and brought us carefully 
up the Gulf of Georgia and into the har- 
bour of Vancouver. Here we were turned 
loose upon the unsuspecting town. 

In a day the wealth I had amassed at 
lime-juicing had withered, so I had to 
turn to and get some kind of a job. There 
was a great deal of building going on in 
the town, and I got work at carrying the 

There is a great deal of knack in carry- 
ing the hod. You have at once to be a 
powerful man, and a man gifted with a 
nice sense of balance. Really it is the 
most artistic form of labouring work I 
have ever had the good fortune to indulge 
in. If you don't step just so upon the 
ladder or scaffolding, or lean forward just 

Similakameen 193 

so, you and the hod will fall overboard. 
But I am not going to say anything against 
hod-carrying. All that I will say is that 
it is work of an extremely interesting 

It was while I was carrying the hod 
that I heard of Similakameen. Miners 
came along with Arabian Nights' stories 
of how gold could be picked up there by 
the handful. And the thirst for wealth 
came upon me so strongly that carrying 
the hod began to lose for me its fascina- 
tion. The delights that attended the slow 
climbing of a steep ladder with a heavy 
load upon my shoulder began to pall. I 
thought I might as well go off and make 
a fortune with the rest of them. 

But a difficulty presented itself. I had 
not enough money to buy myself an outfit, 
for the time-check which the boss con- 
siderately presented to me for my prowess 
at carrying the hod only amounted to ten 
dollars, and, to make things more interest- 
ing still, I found that I could only get 
seven dollars for the check when I came 
to cash it at a store. 


194 A Man Adrift 

An outfit, at the most meagre reckoning, 
meant the possession of a pair of blankets, 
a pickaxe and shovel, a fine wire sieve, a 
good knife, and a revolver or a Winchester 
rifle. Added to this, there was the getting 
of bacon and flour and whisky, and the 
fare to Fort Hope. No, seven dollars 
wouldn't even gaze upon it. 

My visions of quick, easy wealth were 
becoming beautifully dim, and I was 
fluctuating on the ragged edge of despair, 
when who should come along but my ship- 
mate, Bob one of the lads who had come 
over with me from Yokohama on the 
Seraph. We talked matters over, and I 
found that he, too, had developed an in- 
tense thirst for the wealth to be gained 
in Similakameen. This was good, but, 
what was much better and still more to 
the point, was the fact that the night be- 
fore he had made a big winning in a saloon 
at draw-poker. He was able to get an 
outfit and to spare, and he generously 
proposed that we should become partners. 
He would get me my outfit, he said. 
Thus was the difficulty surmounted. 

Similakameen 195 

Similakameen, where the wealth was 
patiently waiting for us, was a mining 
camp, situated right in the heart of the 
Selkirk Mountains. It was four hundred 
miles away from Vancouver. 

Our first point to make was Fort Hope. 
With this end in view we walked over to 
New Westminster, where we were to take 
a steamer up the Fraser River. 

We had to wait a few hours for the 
steamer, and we put in the time by telling 
each other all we would do when we got 
back with our load of gold dust. " Nuggets 
as well," Bob would reiterate to me. " Pure 
nuggets. They're up there as big as your 
fist. It won't be all dust we'll have to 
carry." Then we would go off into a long 
discussion as to which was the easier to 
carry, nuggets or dust. 

At last we were aboard the steamer and 
on our way to Fort Hope. We had found 
out that we were not going to have Simi- 
lakameen all to ourselves. There were 
others, as the saying goes. The steamer 
was simply crowded with men of all kinds 
rough and smooth and otherwise. I 

196 A Man Adrift 

heard a great deal of talk, and got a vast 
number of tips about gold and its getting. 

Everybody seemed to be giving every- 
body else valuable points. I heard many 
and wonderful schemes put forward for 
the turning of streams from their courses 
so as to get at the gold-laden sand which 
lay over the bed rock. There was gold 
in the bed of every stream and river in 
the world, one man averred. In fact, this 
man who was a little wild in the eyes 
put forward a scheme for the turning off 
of the Fraser River a river of tremendous 
volume and quick flow, and three miles 
wide in places. His eyes grew a little 
wilder when I volunteered the opinion 
that at least his scheme had the merit of 
being big. 

Fort Hope was something over two 
hundred miles from Vancouver, and here 
it was that our journey began in earnest. 
We got off the steamer, and after going 
three or four miles we were confronted 
with a tote-trail, which seemed to run 
sheer up over the tops of the mountains. 
A tote- trail is made by Indians as they 

Similakameen 197 

tote, or carry, provisions and merchan- 
dise along and over places that are in- 
accessible for pack-horses and mules. 

However, the whole crowd of us began 
to string up the trail. We were only one 
hundred and eighty miles from Similaka- 
meen ; but this hundred and eighty miles 
wanted a lot of doing, for, besides our- 
selves, we had our blankets and weapons 
and bacon and flour to carry and one 
or two other things, including ammuni- 
tion and whisky. In a big, broken-up 
mountain - country whisky is invaluable. 
Indeed, a gold-hunter would as soon think 
of forgetting his flour bag as his big 
leathern whisky flask. 

We could make no more than twelve 
miles a day at the outside, for the trail 
was something woeful. Sometimes I 
would sit down and wonder where I was 
at. Gold was all very well, I used to 
think, as I wiped my brow, but this trail 
was going it a bit too stiff. Even the 
sanguine Bob had to admit that we were 
earning the " nuggets." 

When night was coming on we used 

198 A Man Adrift 

to look round and collect wood to make a 
fire. Then we would fry some bacon, 
and make flapjacks with flour and water. 
When supper was over we would light 
our pipes, and smoke and talk. Our last 
preparation for the night was to put a rope 
in the form of a circle around the place 
where we were going to sleep. Our 
reason for doing this was that if snakes 
crawled towards us during the night they 
would stop with their heads at the rope 
go around the circle and then go away 
again. Snakes will do this. I don't 
know the reason why. It may be that 
they fear if they pass over the rope they 
will get into a trap. 

When we got the rope fixed, we would 
wrap ourselves up in our blankets, and 
lie down, turning our feet Indian- fashion 
to the fire. We were so tired that we 
would fall asleep the instant we stretched 
ourselves out. At the break of dawn we 
would get up, make our breakfast, load 
ourselves up with our blankets and things, 
and go on our way. 

After the first day or so along the trail 

Similakameen 199 

we stopped talking about what we would 
do when we got the gold. 

Besides being hard, the trail was often 
most dangerous. It was trying to the 
nerves to have to crawl slowly with our 
loads on a narrow ledge along the face 
of a precipice that sheered down thousands 
of feet. And usually there was a strong, 
high wind blowing. Often I shuddered, 
and wondered what would happen next. 

The wind would almost seem to claw 
at us as if it wanted to drag us down to 
an awful death. 

Miles out down the great mountains we 
could always see the glint of some torrent 
a sharp, sinister, white line. Again we 
would see in the far distance small specks 
moving along the trail. They were men 
like ourselves, going on to Similakameen 
for gold. They were before us and behind 
us. All moving slowly on. On in quest 
of gold. 

We were in the wild, hard country of 
the Chilkats the Indians who always 
kill. Many of us would leave our bones 
here. A few of us would come back 

200 A Man Adrift 

laden with gold. And we were all going 
slowly on. 

It surely was not altogether the idea 
of eventually getting gold that bound 
us to this terrible trail. With it was 
blended the instinct that prompts white 
men to voluntarily put themselves in the 
way of hardships and difficulties so that 
they may surmount them. 

After all, it was a fine thing to fight 
along mile after mile through the clouds. 
It was a fine thing to feel that one was 
doing something that was hard and 
worthy of achievement. It was some- 
thing to climb across an almost inacces- 
sible mountain chain to this Similakameen, 
even if in the end we did not get the 
gold! If we died well, other men had 
died before us! Other men's bones had 
lain whitening. We were not the first 
men who had gone off and grappled 
danger in search of treasure. If Fate 
willed it that we were not to come back, 
what of it? It was as good to die one 
way as another. 

How glorious and terrible were the 

Similakameen 201 

mountains ! And how silent. The dis- 
tant roar of the torrents seemed but to 
make more clear this strange, universal 
silence. We passed through gloomy, ter- 
rifying, vast canyons. We saw glaciers 
hundreds of years old giving forth the 
rays of the sun in a shimmering blaze of 
wonderful colours. 

North of us lay the great Klondike 
region. And north of this again lay the 
immense trackless region of the Midnight 


AT last we had got to our journey's end. 
We were in Similakameen. The first 
thing we did was to stake out our claim. 
There was not much difficulty about this, 
as the limbs of the law, who sweat miners, 
and make it awkward for them, had not as 
yet got up into the mountains. The camp 
had not become important enough, and, 
besides, the journey was an ugly one. 
Some of the men with whom we had 
started in the steamer had got in before 

202 A Man Adrift 

us. Others were still straggling behind in 
the distance. 

We rested for a day or so, as we were 
used up through the hardships we had 
endured along the trail. It had taken us 
sixteen days to come the hundred and 
eighty miles. 

The camp lay around the banks of a 
creek, and ftv* ipi^g done was of the 
most primitive kind placer mining. Get- 
ting machinery up to a place like this for 
the purpose of crushing ore was of course 
quite out of the question. It was bad 
enough to get flour up, for every ounce of 
it had to be carried on the backs of Indians. 
The loads were fastened on to their backs 
with broad bands which were arranged so 
as to pass around their foreheads. This 
way of arranging the load brought into 
play the powerful muscles of the neck, and 
was a great help to the Indian in the carry- 
ing of his load up steep and awkward 
places. It was simply a utilising of the 
force a man exerts when he throws his 
head forward in the effort of climbing. 

A thing that struck us hard when we 

Similakameen 203 

first got into camp was the fact that flour 
was a dollar and a half a pound. Bacon 
was something fabulous, and not to be 
thought of for a moment. And, as we 
had already made a heavy inroad into 
our stock of provisions, we began to get 
nervous. Bob, however, had some money 
left, and he bought twenty pounds of flour 
at the store. We would have to take our 
chances of eking it out by hunting and 

When I made inquiries from the other 
miners concerning the big finds, I found 
that imagination had helped out the stories 
I had heard in Vancouver. True, one or 
two men had struck big paying pans, but 
there were lots of fellows who had struck 
nothing. Many had left the place, and 
when I asked why we had not met them I 
was told that they had gone off for the 
Fraser River along another trail. Miners 
have a feeling against going back on the 
same trail. If possible, they will find 

Going to work was quite simple. All 
we had to do was to build a rough wooden 

204 A Man Adrift 

cradle, and fasten across the top of it the 
sieve we had brought with us from Van- 
couver. Beneath this we had fixed a piece 
of blanket to catch a certain heavy, black, 
slimy sand as it oozed through the sieve. 
The gold dust was in this sand. 

When we were ready, I dug up a shovel- 
ful of sand and gravel from the side of the 
creek, and pitched it into the sieve on 
the top of the cradle. Bob immediately 
reached down his scoop into the stream, 
lifted the water, and poured it slowly over 
the sand and gravel, rocking the cradle 
gently as he did so. When the fine, heavy 
sand had sifted through, he detached the 
sieve, and threw away the gravel and 
coarse sand. Then I threw in another 
shovelful or so, and exactly the same 
operation was gone through again. 

This was placer mining. 

We were at it the whole of the day. 
Sometimes Bob would take the shovel and 
I the rocker for a change. Men were 
scattered along the banks of the creek, 
working as we were working, for nearly a 

Similakameen 205 

When night was coming on we stopped, 
lifted off the sieve, took the blanket gently 
out of the cradle, and brought it over to 
the shack we had built for ourselves. 
Here we dried it thoroughly at the fire 
outside the front of the door. When dry, 
we shook the sand out of it carefully, and 
afterwards ran quicksilver through it to 
attract the gold. When we melted off 
the quicksilver the next day, there before 
our eyes was the precious dust. It did us 
good to see it. True, there were none of 
Bob's " nuggets " in it, but still it was gold. 
We could easily get the little heap on to 
the point of a knife a little, dull, heavy, 
yellow heap. Through it ran a few little 
pieces about the size of a pin-head. "Your 
nuggets/' I said to Bob. He laughed as 
he carefully put the dust away into a little 
gold-bag. Then, with a will, we went to 
work again, cradling and washing the sand. 

For the first few days we did very well, 
and once Bob actually did find a little 
nugget that weighed something over half 
an ounce. He was wild with excitement 
over it, and so, indeed, was I. We looked 

206 A Man Adrift 

at it eagerly, and passed it one to the other 
several times, and tried hard to persuade 
ourselves that it was heavier than it really 
was. We could tell that it was pure gold 
right through that there was no hard, 
structural alloy running through it for it 
was soft enough to give a little when we 
squeezed it between the thumb and fingers. 
This placer mining was the most excit- 
ing work I had ever done. After all, we 
could never tell what we were going to 
find. Whenever I sank my shovel into 
the sand there was no knowing whether or 
not I might heave a nugget the size of my 
fist into the sieve. Other men had done 
so, and why not I ? It was delightful to 
feel that perhaps I was lifting up on my 
shovel a piece of gold the size of many 
Spanish doubloons. Whilst I was digging 
I was always thinking of gold doubloons. 
The treasure I had read of in the stories 
of the old pirates and the treasure I was 
seeking after here in the mountains ran 
together in my mind. The work was a 
bit hard and steady, but I never minded 
that. It appealed to the profound love of 

Similakameen 207 

chance that I shared in common with other 

There was no fear now of our running 
out of provisions, at any rate for a time. 
At the store the gold dust was taken just 
as money would be taken. And we were 
able to indulge in the extreme luxury of 
bacon. They had finely adjusted scales 
to weigh the dust, and it was a sight to 
watch the miners looking over and under 
and around these scales to see if the 
balance was absolutely true. Fellows 
spoke of ounces and half -ounces and 
quarter-ounces of gold as they would of 
so many pounds or dollars. 

At night poker was played a great deal 
in the store, and when we got enough dust 
ahead Bob went and took a hand in the 
game. His usual good luck was with him. 
This poker-playing helped out our digging 
immensely. I must say that Bob was the 
luckiest man at cards I have ever known. 

Curiously enough, there was never a row 
over the game. In fact, there was never 
a row in the whole camp while we were 
there. The reason for this was simple. 

20 8 A Man Adrift 

A row would mean business, for every 
man was armed for all he was worth. 
Someone would surely have been killed. 
So the result was peace and amity amongst 
a crowd who were in the main hard men. 
And right here I must say that a mining 
camp in any part of the world is as a rule 
peaceful before the limbs of the law come 
into it to extort blackmail from the miners 
for themselves and their Governments. It 
is the police who invariably provoke the 
rows. Any man who has been in gold 
rushes will attest to this. 

Now and then a couple of miners would 
start away from camp to go over the trail 
off to Vancouver or Port Moody. They 
had made their pile. On such an occasion 
we would get together to see them off, and 
give them a parting cheer for luck. But 
often er men were going away who had 
struck next to nothing, and who were 
leaving because they had had enough of 
it. In these cases we would club together 
to get them some bacon and flour and 
ammunition if they were short. The 
primal conditions under which we lived 

Similakameen 209 

made us realise that it was our duty to 
relieve when possible the necessities of 
others. And it was not done with the air 
of bestowing a favour. It was done simply 
and as a matter of course. 

Sometimes Bob and I would take a day 
off and scour around for game. It was 
as well not to be buying too much grub 
at the store. Though it was a big game 
country, it was awkward to stalk the game, 
so we had to confine our attention to birds. 
One of the men in the next claim to us 
lent Bob a shot-gun with the understand- 
ing that we were to whack up our kill 
with them. We provided the ammunition, 
which ran frightfully high at the store. 
Quails were what we used to get mostly, 
and we got a good few of them, owing 
mainly, I suppose, to the fact of the gun 
being of a large bore, and to the spreading 
of the shot in the air. 

Our claim gave forth a small, steady 
yield. Bob's " nuggets " never arrived. 
The worth of the pans through the whole 
of the day averaged about sixty dollars. 

Out of this, of course, a good deal had to 

210 A Man Adrift 

go for provisions. The men who kept 
the store were the fellows who really got 
the bulk of the gold. They took no risks, 
but simply charged famine prices for 
everything. To bring things to Simila- 
kameen was, to be sure, most expensive, 
but, like all middlemen, they took a double 
and treble advantage of it. They neither 
got the gold nor did they tote the pro- 
visions. They just sat tight, and skimmed 
the fat from the pot. 

However, Bob still kept up his form at 
poker, and this stood us in good stead. 
Winning gold in the store from the other 
miners was not perhaps so romantic as 
getting it out of the earth in nuggets 
but still it served. 

After awhile our claim began to thin 
out, and we went further up the creek, 
and staked out another. Here our luck 
was something about the same as it was 
in the first claim just a small, steady 
yield. Still, there was no use in repining, 
for there were lots of fellows who struck 
hardly anything at all. 

We worked on for about six or seven 

Similakameen 211 

weeks, and then we began to think of 
making tracks for the Fraser River. It 
was the end of August, and it was just 
as well to be getting back while the good 
weather lasted. 

And one morning we counted things 
up, and found that we would have four 
thousand dollars' worth of dust clear after 
getting a stock of grub and ammunition 
two thousand dollars apiece. What with 
Bob's skill at poker and our joint toil we 
had not done so badly after all. 

And the next day we packed up and 
started from Similakameen. 


BOB and I were in a hopeful mood as 
we went back along the trail. True, we 
had not made our fortune, but we had 
managed to get to Similakameen all 
right, and to come away with something 
into the bargain. Our work, of course, 
was still cut out for us, but we had made 
the main point, which really was to go and 
see what the place looked like. The possi- 
bility of getting a fortune had only an in- 
cidental bearing on the project. At least, 
that was the way it appeared to us now as 
we talked the matter over. Bob laughed 
over his " nuggets," and said that we had 
enough to carry over the trail as it 

The trail we were taking was one that 
skirted to the north. We had been told 


The Chilkats 213 

by Sfwashes who toted provisions into 
camp that it was easier than the one we 
had come by. We found this to be a fact. 
The only drawback was that it would run 
us on to the north fork of the Fraser 
River instead of running us out at 
Fort Hope. This would mean perhaps 
delay in getting a boat down the river. 
However we chanced it. One cannot 
have everything. Besides, the trail was 
new to us. 

After we had been out three or four 
days we came across two men who were 
returning after prospecting to the north. 
They told us of having struck a place rich 
in pay dirt, but that it was impossible to 
work it because the water was too far away. 
This is one of the difficulties in gold-hunt- 
ing. Besides finding the gold in paying 
quantities one must also find the water to 
wash it out. 

These men, who were Canadians, also 
told us a piece of news they had heard 
that made us feel anxious. It was to the 
effect that the Chilkats were " out." This 
meant that our bones would stand a good 

214 A Man Adrift 

chance of lying in the mountains if they 
came upon us, for the Chilkats were hard, 
savage, fighting Indians. They were a 
different race altogether from the Siwashes, 
who were, generally speaking, inoffensive, 
and amenable to the missionaries. A 
Chilkat was as ugly and as dangerous on 
the warpath as a Sioux Indian. However, 
to do them justice, they never went out with- 
out being given a good reason for it in some 
way or another by white men. But this 
thought was rather cold comfort just then. 

The Canadians and ourselves decided 
to keep together on the trail. Four would 
have a better chance of standing off a rush 
than two. 

We kept the sharpest look-out just as 
we were going in or going out of a canyon. 
Then was the greatest danger of falling 
into an ambush, for the Chilkats were in 
the habit of posting themselves amongst 
the big rocks that lay around the mouth. 
Here they would lie in wait for days for 
white men to come along. They could 
not only hear men coming along the trail, 
when they were miles and miles away, 

The Chilkats 215 

but they could tell how many were 
coming. It was said they did this by 
going up into a certain part of the 
canyon and listening. Sound acts in a 
strange way in the mountains, and the 
Indians knew the mountains and their 
ways absolutely. 

Going through these gloomy canyons 
filled us with dread. They looked so dark 
and evil, and tremendous. And so still. 
It was when we were in the middle of one 
that our nerves were strung to the hardest 
tension. Death seemed to be hanging 
about us to be ahead of us to be be- 
hind us. The vengeance of the Indians 
seemed to be lurking in the immense, sinister 
shadows thrown down upon us from the 
vast, black walls of the canyon. It is 
terrible to live momentarily in expectation 
of violent death. 

At night when we lay down we did not 
build a fire. It was not a safe thing to do, 
for a fire is seen a long way through the 
mountains. We used to go off three or 
four hundred yards from the trail. Each 
of us took a turn at standing watch whilst 

2i6 A Man Adrift 

the rest slept in their blankets. But at 
night as long as we had no fire we were 
fairly safe. The danger was in the day- 

But in time men will get used to any- 
thing, and at last we got used to the idea 
of being rushed at any moment. We 
began to be ourselves to laugh and 
joke and talk. Perhaps the Chilkats 
were not "out" at all! It might have 
been but a false report. And our 
spirits rose as we tramped along. Men 
can't stay at a tension for ever. If 
the Chilkats wanted us they would come 
for us ! 

However, we kept up the same sharp, 
constant watch. 

We were getting well over the trail. 
In five or six days more we would be at 
the north fork of the Fraser. Here we 
would be all right. We could get to Fort 
Hope without any trouble, for, as luck 
would have it, the Canadians knew a half- 
breed who had a boat big enough to take 
us all down the river. From there Bob 
and I could go over to Vancouver or Port 

The Chilkats 217 

Moody, and have a little time with the 
gold we had brought from Similakameen. 
I suggested to Bob that perhaps we might 
as well pay for a passage to Europe before 
we had the " time," so as to see what going 
as a passenger was like. But Bob didn't 
see it. And one of the Canadians said he 
wouldn't live in Europe if he were given a 
town in it for nothing. The North-west 
was good enough for him ! He had lived 
in it for twenty years ! He was very sore 
on civilisation, was this Canadian. He 
said that in it men were most cruel to 
one another. They were worse than the 
Chilkats, who were, maybe, trailing us 
now to kill us ! 

I was in the thick of a strong argument 
with -him as to this assertion when Bob, 
who was going on in front, made a sign to 
us. We knew at once what was up. The 
Chilkats were coming down upon us ! We 
were in for it. As there were only four of 
us, they would be sure to try and rush us. 
" Down!" shouted Bob, throwing himself 
flat. We dropped, too, barely in time to 
miss a volley that seemed to come 

2i8 A Man Adrift 

from everywhere. It was hardly the 
place where we would have expected 
the Chilkats, for we were nowhere near 
a canyon. 

We stayed down flat for a few seconds 
it is hard to hit a man when he is lying 
prone on the ground and then all at once 
there broke out a most horrible whooping 
and screeching. Still, we could see no one 
as yet. The screeching was enough to 
upset one, but by this time we had got a 
hold upon ourselves. We would work for 
all we were able. The bad part of it was, 
however, that we were not under cover, 
and it would not have paid to try and get 
to it. Where the Chilkats were it was 
hard to tell. Indians can hide behind 
nothing. The noise seemed to be going 
on all around us. "I don't think there's so 
many of 'em after all," said the Canadian 
with whom I had been having the 

Suddenly an Indian seemed to spring 
up out of the ground. He was hardly over 
twenty feet from us, and was rushing full 
at us with a yell, when the Canadian raised 

The Chilkats 219 

himself easily and dropped him with his 
Winchester. The ball had gone through 
his body, and he fell over on his face. The 
knife he had brandished shot out of his 
hand towards us, and Bob grabbed it. 
" Up ! Up ! " I shouted and we were up 
to meet the rush, back to back. They 
came for us, yelling wild, savage-faced 
men, clad in skins and leggings. They 
had dropped their guns, and were on 
us with their knives. It was then that 
I found out that there is no weapon 
like a revolver of big calibre for close, 
sharp work. 

The whole thing was over. The 
Canadian was right. There were not so 
many Indians, after all no more than a 
dozen, but they made noise enough for a 
hundred. Poor old Canadian ! He was 
gone. A big Indian had knifed the life 
out of him. It was a slashing up-stroke. 
The Canadian would have been all right, 
but somehow the barrel of his Winchester 
got in his way when the Indian was close 
up to him, and, as he was trying to turn, 

220 A Man Adrift 

the knife went into him. This Indian 
gave more trouble than all the rest put 
together. After finishing the Canadian, 
he gave Bob a jab in the shoulder, and 
would have finished him, too, only that I 
got in on him in time with the revolver. 
When he was out of the way the fight 
slackened, and finally what was left of the 
Chilkats drew off. 

I took Bob's coat off, and, getting out 
my needle and thread, I stitched up the 
slash in his shoulder as well as I could. 
He was nearly done up through loss of 
blood. The Canadian's partner was cry- 
ing over him. They had been together 
ten years, and it took him hard to see him 
dead. He was lying close to the big 
Chilkat, and the worst of it was we had to 
leave him as he lay. We could not dig 
a grave for him, for there was nothing 
but rock all around us. And, again, it 
would not do for us to wait about too 
much, for the Chilkats might come back 

Again we were on the trail. This time 
we had to go very slowly on account of 

The Chilkats 22 1 

Bob. I was beginning to be afraid about 
him. He seemed to get weaker all the 
time. A wounded man needs rest above 
everything else, and we were not able to 
take it. We had to walk him slowly 
between us. 

The Chilkats did not bother us 

When we were two days' journey from 
the north fork of the river we fell in with 
an English hunting party who were very 
kind to us, and who helped us out. 
They gave me some quinine for Bob 
and some linen to make a proper 
bandage for his wound. Only for meet- 
ing them I'm afraid he would have 
gone under. 

Finally we got to the north fork. We 
stayed here for a day or so with the half- 
breed whom the Canadian knew. Then 
he took the three of us down the river to 
Fort Hope. The voyage in the boat did 
us good. 

I was glad when the whole thing was 
over and I had got Bob safe to Vancouver. 
There he had to go on the sick list for a 

222 A Man Adrift 

time. When he was right again we went 
over to Victoria to take our ease and to 
put the boys on the best way of going to 


IN the old days people took life very 
easily at Victoria, in Vancouver Island. 
They opened their shops late in the morn- 
ing, and closed them up early in the after- 
noon. Over their dinners they lingered 
Jong. They smoked to soothe themselves, 
and talked calmly about nothing in par- 
ticular. If there were not enough holidays 
in the year they made more, so as to 
supply properly their strong demand for 
rest. Food was very cheap and easy to 
get, and white labour commanded a high 
price. The Si wash Indian sold the game 
he had killed to the white man for next to 
nothing. It cost almost less for a deer 
bought from him than it would to buy 
enough powder and shot to kill it. Salmon 
was still cheaper and easier to get. This 

224 A Man Adrift 

state of affairs was, to be sure, favourable 
to the inhabitants, for their command of 
that good and sufficient amount of leisure 
which poets and philosophers say is so 
necessary for man's best development. 

Bob and I got to Victoria when the old 
days had slipped as it' were into the new 
days a trick they have. The former 
restful state of affairs had passed away. 
The hurry-up spirit of the near-by United 
States had crept, or rather rushed, into 
the town. Everybody was hustling. Men 
were more plentiful, and labour was 
cheaper. The shops opened early and 
closed late. The people were forgetting 
to linger, and they had stopped studding 
the year with holidays. The men who 
had a yearning for leisure were gradually 
being forced to leave town and go up into 
the northern part of the island. There 
they could live with the Siwashes and do 
nothing but fish a little, hunt a little, and 
laze and smoke to their heart's content. 
This Victoria was the finest town in 
all British Columbia. About thirteen 
thousand people lived in it. The hurry-up 

Victoria to Nanaimo 225 

and rush-around spirit had resulted in the 
giving to it of straight, paved highways 
and drives. The better the roads the 
swifter the rush, evidently became the 
motto of the people, who had arrived at 
the conclusion that it was necessary for the 
well-being and happiness to try their level 
best to get twenty-five hours' time out of 
the twenty-four. 

The Chinese were well represented 
here. They had on the face of it arrived 
at the conclusion that there were flowerier 
places even than the Flowery Land, and 
that this was one of them. They washed 
clothes, cooked, did light labouring work, 
and, above all, looked unpicturesque. 
They were an unstartling and uninterest- 
ing lot. They embodied prosaicism. The 
Victorians were always grumbling about 
them. They said that when they came to 
a country they carried hard times with 
them on their backs. The assertion was 
quite true, mainly because the white 
capitalist used them as a means to grind 
down and starve to death his white 
brother. In the long-winded, bitter dis- 

226 A Man Adrift 

cussions I heard about them no one ever 
brought out this point. Neither did any- 
one mention the fact that gold-greedy 
white men smuggled them across frontiers 
and through harbours in defiance of their 
own laws and exclusion acts. 

Just before the close of the restful 
epoch, Victoria, I heard, was a rather 
trying place to live in. The old-timers 
said it was the rendezvous of outlaws, off- 
colour adventurers, and other kindred 
gentry who had departed in haste from 
different parts of the world for the good 
of their health. An old white-whiskered 
Victorian, who did me the honour of 
taking a drink with me, told me that the 
gold-find in Similakameen attracted them, 
and that Victoria was their stopping-off 
place. I was not aware that Similakameen 
had been known so long, but I listened 
with the respect that is due to the aged, 
and when I thought that the time was 
ripe I asked him to have another drink. 
He took the drink, and then went on to 
tell me that these fellows were always 
raising rows and ructions, maiming and 

Victoria to Nanaimo 227 

killing each other, and breaking the peace 
generally. They had little time for work, 
and plenty of time for fighting. As soon 
as they made a stake at the placer mines, 
he said, they would come in and spend 
it, and call the town to witness that they 
were spending it. At this I suggested to 
the old-timer that they must have been a 
desirable acquisition to the regular popula- 
tion in the sense of affording an element 
of excitement to off-set and balance the 
easiness and sleepiness of the town. The 
old man paused, and thought a little. But 
I can't say he rose to my suggestion. 
Instead, he asserted that it would have 
been all right and proper if these fellows 
had only fought with and exterminated 
one another, but now and then they had 
the nerve to turn their attentions to the 
old-time inhabitants. The result was that 
they were suppressed vigorously. They 
found to their cost that the old-timers 
knew a thing or two more about fighting 
than they did. 

At this the aged, white- whiskered man 
finished his drink. 

228 A Man Adrift 

Not long after this Bob and I found 
ourselves strapped. Making valiant efforts 
to relieve the Saharan thirst of bar-room 
crowds soon eased us of what we had 
brought from Similakameen. Fellows 
would listen admiringly to our recitals of 
our adventures along the trail, and then 
calmly borrow from us. 

So we left for Vancouver. 

Here I went to the Globe Hotel and 
made a borrow from Ben Woods, the pro- 
prietor. Then it was that Bob conceived 
the brilliant idea of going over to Nanaimo, 
a town in the northern part of Vancouver 
Island. The brilliancy of the idea lay in 
the fact that we had never been there. 

Before we thought of starting, however, 
we took the precaution of spending the 
money I had borrowed. Then we worked 
our passage across the straits on a big 
freight sloop. 

It was beginning to snow when we got 
to Nanaimo, and things began to look 
rather bad for us. The town had a 
mouldered and worn appearance, due, I 
suppose, to the incessant rains. On the 

Victoria to Nanaimo 229 

coast in British Columbia it rains steadily 
for at least five months in the year. 

It was a dull wooden grey town ; and 
it was snowing in it ; and night was 
coming on and Bob and I had no money. 
We walked dolefully along the main street 
trying to think as to ways and means. A 
knotty problem was before us. Where 
should we get something to eat, and where 
should we sleep that night ? We had our 
blankets with us, but going outside the 
town to sleep out was not to be thought 
of. It was snowing. 

We had got to the end of the street, 
and were standing for a moment. Over 
across the way was a saloon with windows 
well lit up, and looking altogether cheerful 
an oasis in the midst of darkness and 
snow and damp. How we would have 
liked to have gone in ! But, alas ! we 
hadn't the price. I could not help but 
think of the money we had flung around 
so freely when we were telling the fellows 
in Victoria all about things. The thought 
was a useless one though it did bear 
most exasperatingly upon the point. I 

230 A Man Adrift 

turned it over in my mind, or, rather, it 
turned itself over in my mind. If but 
the if was a big one. 

Men were going into the saloon, for it 
was Saturday night, and they were coming 
to invest part of their wages in a little 
jollity and sociability. Round about 
Nanaimo were coal mines, and these were 
the miners. I could tell that they were 
coal-miners by the set and walk of them, 
for I belonged to the North of England, 
where one is in the habit of seeing them 

Bob and I still gazed yearningly at the 
saloon. Neither of us said a word. 

All at once an idea broke in on me. 
It was a simple idea, but the more I 
examined it the more luminous it got. I 
turned and said a few words to Bob, and 
he grinned with approval. 

We walked across the road and into 
the saloon. 

A lot of men were drinking at the bar. 
Yes, they were all coal-miners, and the 
most of them were men from the north 
of England. There was no mistaking 

Victoria to Nanaimo 231 

their strong, hard-looking frames and in- 
telligent faces. 


1 ' Mates," said I, in a loud voice, "me 
and my mate here have just come over 
from Vancouver. Before that we were in 
Similakameen, but luck was against us, 
and we had it rough coming over the 
trail. If you don't mind, I'd like to sing 
you a song or two. If anyone likes to 
give a trifle after, we should be thankful. 
My mate here will go round. I come 
from the north of England." 

I had struck the right note. 

" Wheer abouts does tha' come from ? " 
said one man, in a broad Lancashire 
accent. " Monchester," I said, with a 
smile. " Eh, lad," he said, as he grasped 
my hand, " tha' knows Bowton. Ah come 
from theer. Thee and thy mate come 
and have a sup wi' me." He ordered 
drinks for us. 

We were all right. We had got to the 

It turned out that there were several 
Lancashire men in the crowd. It did me 
good to hear the good old broad burr 

2 32 A Man Adrift 

again. A man who belonged to Heywood 

" Yowwood," he called it treated us 

next. He had been away from Lanca- 
shire for twenty years, but his accent was 
as rich as if he had only left it the day 
before. We were getting on swimmingly. 
It turned out that the landlord also was a 
Lancashire man. To use a placerism, we 
had struck big paying pans. 

After this I sang. 

My first song was "Tom Bowling." 
Many of them had often heard it sung in 
the Old Country. They applauded when 
I had finished. " Hey, lad, that's good ! " 
said the man from " Bowton," and the 
drinks were again in evidence. Then the 
landlord asked us if we were hungry, and 
when we said we were, he brought us 
back into the parlour, and gave us a big 
supper. He was a jolly-looking, heart)' 
man, was the landlord a typical, red- 
faced, old English tavern landlord. He 
looked as if he might have been suddenly 
dropped into this far - away place from 
" Owdham " or " Bowton." 

After supper I was in great form, and 

Victoria to Nanaimo 233 

sang several more songs in the bar-room. 
Then Bob went round with the hat. He 
collected over fifteen dollars. We were 
all right. And that night we went over 
and slept at the house of the man from 
" Bowton." 


THE man from "Bowton" said that he 
would get us a job in the coal mines. 
But that hardly suited us. Toil in the 
open air was bad enough, but toil down 
in the darkness of the mine was something 
to get away from altogether. So I ex- 
plained to our friend that we were sailors, 
and therefore accustomed to good, strong, 
fresh air. Besides, Bob's lungs were in 
a delicate condition, I added. Bob's looks 
hardly bore out my statement, and I was 
afraid the man from " Bowton " would 
comment upon the fact. However, to 
our relief, he let the subject of work 

Whilst we were in Nanaimo we came 

within an ace of being Shanghaied. Being 

Shanghaied means being taken aboard a 

vessel against your will when she is on 


With the Indians 235 

the point of sailing and being forced to 
do a sailor's work upon her, Men are 
usually Shanghaied when they are drunk, 
or when they are drugged, as the case 
may be. The thing often happens in a 
wharf groggery. A man is hustled out 
when he is half unconscious, put aboard 
a boat, and taken over to the vessel 
which is lying outside ready to make 
sail. This way of getting a ship its 
complement of hands is practised 
more on the Pacific Coast than any- 
where else. The custom originated in 

When the game was tried upon Bob 
and myself we were neither drunk nor 
drugged. It was the day but one after 
my singing for the Lancashire men in 
the saloon, and we were holding on as 
tight as we could to the money Bob had 
collected, for we wanted it to buy flour 
and bacon to take with us to Departure 

The game was played in a simple and 
original way. A man who looked like 
a stevedore stopped us on the main 

236 A Man Adrift 

street, and asked us if we wanted a job 
unloading a ship at forty cents an hour. 
We said we did, and he told us to come 
along with him. He went down to the 
edge of the wharf, where he got into a 
yawl, bidding us do the same. Then he 
pulled straight out into the bay. I 
thought it rather curious that the ship we 
were going to work on was not tied up 
to the wharf, but for the moment I said 

He went on pulling out farther and 
farther. Finally, I thought that the time 
was ripe for Bob and myself to get a little 
light on the subject. I asked the man 
where the ship was. He shipped an oar, 
and pointed to a vessel that lay off half 
a mile away. "Out there," he said. I 
looked at her. She was a big, full-rigged 
ship. The man bent himself to his oars 
again pulling strong. I thought a little, 
and then I dropped to the whole scheme. 
He was out to Shanghai us ! Once aboard 
the full-rigger we would have a job to get 
ashore again ! 

"Belay," I said to him. "Turn back." 

With the Indians 237 

He stopped pulling, and said : " It's all 
right. Don't you want the job ? " I 
laughed, and Bob laughed. " No," I re- 
plied, " we don't want the job just yet." 
But the man was a bit obstinate. He 
told us that it was all right, and that 
he would have to pull us there any- 
how. At this I stood up in the boat, 
and asked him if he could swim. He 
knew what I meant, and he turned back 
at once. 

When we got on the wharf again I 
turned round and struck him in the 

Departure Bay was only six miles away 
from Nanaimo, and we walked up there 
after we had bought some provisions at a 
store. Our plan was to find a deserted 
shack on the edge of the forest and en- 
sconce ourselves there for the winter. 
We would have an easy time of it there 
along with the Siwash Indians who lived 
round about. Bob and I had heard such 
a lot about them and the calm life that 
they led that we thought it would be as 
well if we took it on for a time. White 

238 A Man Adrift 

men in Victoria had told us that there 
were lots of shacks lying around that 
fellows had deserted after the life had 
palled upon them. 

It turned out as we had been told. We 
did find a suitable shack. And also we 
found quite a number of white men who 
were living with the Indians. Many of 
them had taken squaws for their wives. 
They were most hospitable, and lent us 
the pots and pans we needed. One old 
man had lived there for twenty years. 
He gave the life big praise. He said he 
wouldn't live in civilisation now for any- 
thing. There was nothing for it but to 
work all your days like a dog, and die 
in the end like a cur! His talk put 
me in mind of the talk of the poor 
old Canadian who was knifed by the 
big Chilkat. 

These Si wash Indians were in no way 
like the Chilkats, who were big, strapping, 
straight fellows, with savage eyes. The 
Si washes were small, stockily-built men, 
with flat, mild faces. They liked white 
men, and tolerated the missionaries who 

With the Indians 239 

gave them religion mixed with presents. 
Some of them were the quaintest-looking 
little men I had ever set eyes upon. With 
their tall, conical hats made out of bark, 
they looked exactly like large gnomes. 
One could imagine them stepping up from 
out of the earth. 

Their language sounded most strange. 
It was an odd, moist language that seemed 
to be without consonants. It was hard 
for a white man to get the hang of it. 
When talking to a Siwash one had usually 
to fall back upon Chenook. Chenook was 
a polyglot language invented by the traders 
so that they might the more easily do the 
different tribes of Indians out of all they 
had. This language only contained about 
three hundred words, and was easy to 

Soon after we got fixed up comfortably 
in our shack, all of us white men were 
invited by the Siwashes to assist in a most 
curious ceremony that is, it was most 
curious from the standpoint of practical, 
civilised ethics. 

A potlatch was given. A potlatch x was 

240 A Man Adrift 

a big feast, and it was got up in the 
following manner : A Siwash would save 
up all he could for years. Sometimes, 
indeed, he would be saving up all his life. 
He would deny himself everything so as 
to be able to gather together wealth of 
all kinds rifles, blankets, fishing-nets, 
knives, ammunition, money, and every- 
thing. When he had become rich he 
would give a feast. To this feast every- 
one would be invited ; it mattered not 
whether they were of the tribe or not, it 
mattered not whether they were strangers, 
friends, or enemies. Even race did not 
matter. The stray, passing white man 
of the race who had crushed them and 
robbed them of their country was invited 
to the potlatch as warmly as if he were 
of the tribe. And the feast went on. 
Presents were given to everyone. Every- 
one ate and drank and made merry till the 
last of the wealth was gone. 

This was a potlatch. 

The Indian who gave it had, as reward, 
the knowledge that he was honoured by 
his tribe as a good and generous man. 

With the Indians 241 

To give a big potlatch was the great 
ambition of the Indian's life, just as it is 
the great ambition of the white man's life 
to amass gold for himself, even though he 
knows he must get it out of blood and 
sin and misery. 

The religion of the Indian taught him 
to amass wealth so that he might give it 
to others. 

At this potlatch a feeling of disgust and 
shame came over me when I thought of 
the men of my own race who had the 
presumption to try and thrust their religion 
on a race who possessed a religion of their 
own that could impel them to such noble 
and fine acts. By the fruit shall one know 
the tree. By the acts shall one know of 
the worth of religions. 

The potlatch was given in a great tent 
far away in the forest, and Bob and I got 
for presents blankets, ammunition, and 
some things of which we were in need 
for our shack. The feast lasted four days. 
We had the finest time men could have 
singing and dancing and eating and 
drinking. We felt so much at home. 

242 A Man Adrift 

This Indian hospitality was so sincere. 
You were not asked because they knew 
you, or because you might be interesting. 
You were asked because you were a human 

There was an old Indian with whom I 
got on particularly well. We both tried 
to tell each other all we knew. He was 
a nice old fellow, with an intelligent face 
and kindly eyes. 

When the potlatch was over we white 
men went back to our shacks on the edge 
of the forest, and the old fellow, who had 
lived out of civilisation for twenty years, 
and who had had experience of many pot- 
latches, told me that Bob and I ought to 
settle down with the Indians and live our 
lives out with them. Lots of white men 
had married squaws, he argued he had 
married one in fact ! and they turned 
out to be the best wives going. And the 
life was easy, too ! You did what you 
liked, and you were responsible to no one 
but yourself. In the summer time you 
could get all the salmon you wanted, and 
you could salt enough down for the winter. 

With the Indians 243 

Flour and tobacco were easy to get, and 
the forest was full of game. And so the 
old man ran on. The only drawback was 
the missionaries. They were a lot of loaf- 
ing hypocrites, who corrupted the Indians, 
and who tried to spring a religion upon 
them that was not so good as their 
own ! 

This was a strong opinion for the old 
man to give vent to concerning the mis- 
sionaries. But I must say that experi- 
ence has shown me that the opinion was 
based upon a correct deduction from 

One would think that to conquer and 
subjugate a race was bad enough, without 
afterwards sending out men to insult this 
race by telling them that their religion 
was a false one. Besides, even when looked 
at from the low standpoint of expediency, 
it is impolitic to allow the religion of a 
race that is called " savage " to be inter- 
fered with. Men will forgive you for 
beating them in war, but they will not 
forgive you for interfering with their in- 
herited ideas of what is sacred and holy. 

244 A, Man Adrift 

Missionaries often undo the doings of 
armies and great generals. 

The old man who lived with the Siwashes 
was right in what he said. 


IN 'Frisco I went on the stage. I had 
become tired of the sea and the mountains 
and the Indians, and I thought I would 
like to try for awhile the tinsel and glitter 
and ease of the stage. The idea first 
formed itself in my mind in Nanaimo, 
where I returned after living with the 
Siwash Indians several months at De- 
parture Bay. Bob stayed with them. I 
never saw him again. 

In Nanaimo I had been singing in the 
saloons, and several people had said to 
me, " Why don't you go down to 'Frisco 
and go on the stage ? " 

And at last I found myself at the foot 

of Market Street in 'Frisco, wondering. 

I had just deserted the vessel upon which 

I had shipped from Nanaimo. I was in 


246 A Man Adrift 

'Frisco! But how was I to get on the 
stage ? That was the rub. I possessed a 
hardened constitution, a belt and a sheath 
knife, a used - up merchant sailor's suit 
which I had on me, and coin of the realm 
to the amount of four dollars and a half. 
This was the extent of my capital through 
and through. And I was brown and hard- 
looking and weather beaten as tough a 
looking specimen of the genus homo as 
one could lay eyes on. 

I had been told in Nanaimo to go to 
the Tivoli Opera House on Eddy Street, 
and I went there. It was eleven in the 
morning, and I saw the spruce-looking 
singers going in for rehearsal. I watched 
them from across the road. My courage 
had deserted me, and I was afraid to go 
in and ask to be taken as a singer. The 
hurry and bustle of the town after the 
quietude of life in the solitude of the 
mountains, and with the Indians in the 
forest, confused me. Civilisation was be- 
ginning to get on my nerves. 

However, I plucked up went in and 
saw the conductor, Billy Furst. He looked 

A New Phase 247 

at me in an astonished way I looked so 
rough, and so unlike a vocalist. He asked 
me who and what I was, and where I 
came from. I told him that I had been 
living with Indians in Vancouver Island, 
and that I had come down to San Fran- 
cisco to go on the operatic stage. I was 
tired of sailoring, I said. He laughed, 
but tried my voice. The trial satisfied 
him, and then he asked me if I could read 
music. I could. Then he engaged me 
for the chorus. 

When I was a boy in the North of 
England I used to spend my sixpences in 
going to the gallery of the theatre when 
an opera was on. I was very fond of 
music. I had heard the great tenor, 
Joseph Maas, sing in the different operas. 
The love of music stimulated me to try 
and pick up a knowledge of it. I managed 
to learn to read a little by myself. In my 
knockings around afterwards I studied it 
up whenever I could. I used to buy 
vocal scores, and practise reading at sight. 
Thus I managed to learn to read even 
difficult music. I remember when I worked 

248 A Man Adrift 

at Shaft 19 going to New York one pay 
day and buying a score of Verdi's " Aida," 
and studying it hour after hour when I 
had done work. This ability to read music 
was the only thing literate I had about 
me. It now served me in good stead, 
for, in place of having to tackle a lime- 
juicer that was going a long way off to 
some vague, distant place I was able to 
tackle the tinsel and glitter and ease of 
the stage at the munificent salary of eight 
dollars a week. Billy Furst told me that 
was all they paid raw chorus singers who 
knew nothing in particular about the 

I won't go into all that passed that 
memorable morning between the conductor 
and myself and the singers who stood 
round wonder-struck, gazing on me as if 
I were some wild animal. But I must 
say that when I was on the stage that 
night the opera being given was 
" Orpheus and Eurydice " the strangest 
feeling came over me that I ever had 
in my life. 

The transition was so abrupt. It was 

A New Phase 249 

coming right from the midst of life with 
the Indians in Nanaimo to the midst of 
a comic opera company that gaudy, 
brilliant flower of civilisation. To say 
that I was bewildered would be to put 
it in the mildest way possible. I was 
stunned knocked out. Imagine it! Here 
was soft, grand music, and brilliant light 
and colour, and captivating, lovely white 
women, who would every now and then 
come up to me and ask me how I liked 
living with the Indians, and what sort of 
a life it was. My story had circulated 
round, and I was hard-looking and tough- 
looking enough to look my story. 

I was not playing as yet, to be sure. 
I was just standing in the wings, wearing 
my weather-beaten merchant sailor clothes. 
Furst thought that it was as well for me 
to come and see what the stage was like 
as soon as possible. 

After all, getting taken on here was the 
purest kind of luck. The odds were a 
thousand to one against me. It just 
chanced that the conductor took an in- 
terest in me. At the time they didn't 

250 A Man Adrift 

really want singers. If I had not caught 
on as I did I would have had to ship out 
of 'Frisco. 

As I was a sailor I was sent up into 
the flies to help the fly-man with the ropes 
attached to the drops and borders and 
curtains. This was at the conductor's 
suggestion. He told the management 
that I could put the time in like this 
while I was waiting for the next opera 
to be put on. I don't think I was of 
much use to the fly-man, but I suppose 
that this was an excuse put forward by 
Furst so that I could draw my salary. 
It was a saving management. 

I found that I could live well in 'Frisco 
on eight dollars a week. Food was cheap 
there. For a quarter one could get a 
good course dinner and a small bottle of 
wine, and not be charged anything extra 
for coffee. A good breakfast could be 
got for fifteen cents, and a room for two 
dollars a week. The mildness of the 
climate made it possible to live on almost 
one meal a day. After roughing it like I 
had been the change was delightful. 

A New Phase 251 

The first opera that was put on was 
" Erminie," a beautiful, bright opera. I 
enjoyed the rehearsals very much. At 
first I was an object of curiosity to the 
other chorus singers, but after a while 
they got used to me. 

When the night came I was as nervous 
as if I were going to play a big part. As 
I stood on the stage the lights and the 
watching faces behind them produced a 
curious, chilling effect on me. I had, of 
course, sung before an audience before, 
but then I was near to them, was of them. 
Here the people were so far away and 
so still and quiet and critical. There 
seemed to be an air of passive hos- 
tility about them. And I felt as if 
somehow I was more looked at than 
anyone else. 

But the nervous feeling soon wore off. 
The magic and vitality of the music and 
the scene and the glowing lights got into 
my blood. The strange charm of the 
stage thrilled me. That wonderful, 
subtle, alluring charm ! It seemed to me 
as if I had never really lived before. 

2 $2 A Man Adrift 

That first night on the stage ! It marked 
a new phase in my life. 

My comrades in the chorus were made 
up chiefly of Germans, Frenchmen, and 
Italians. They were an odd lot of men 
unlike any I had ever come into contact 
with before. They were, on the whole, 
cultivated and intelligent men. 

In one way they were all alike. All of 
them thought they had wonderful voices 
and just and true methods of producing 
tone. They did not think much of the 
principals as singers. One or other of 
them was always saying how well they 
could play the principal part if they only 
got a chance at it. If they only got a 
chance at it ! Poor chorus singers ! This 
attitude of mind of theirs was so human 
and pathetic. One of the hard things in 
life is to feel that you have never had a 
chance to play a principal part. 

I did not stay long at the Tivoli. But 
it was mainly through my own fault. I 
was always quarrelling with the Germans. 
The life I had led had made me over- 
ready to fight. Billy Furst, who was 

A New Phase 253 

favourably disposed towards me, inter- 
ceded several times with the manage- 
ment on my behalf.* But at last I kicked 
up too big a row. 

I got discharged. 

After this, life became rather hard for 
me. I had not been able to save a great 
deal out of my eight dollars a week. I 
could have gone back to follow the sea 
again any time I wished, but I had had 
enough of it. 

This was about the time I met Ward. 
We were somewhat in the same fix, and 
we thought we might as well join forces. 
It would be cheaper for us to live 

We occupied the same small room. All 
the details of how we managed to live 
would be hard to tell, for the effort we 
had to make on each particular day was 
so strenuous that it blotted out completely 
nearly everything that had happened on 
the preceding day. It was each day for 
itself, and be thankful that yesterday had 
passed, and to-morrow had not yet come. 

Our great aim in life was to get some- 

254 A Man Adrift 

thing to eat, and by hook or crook find 
the two dollars a week for our room. 

On one occasion the landlady told us 
that we should have to get out on the 
next day. She was suave, but firm. She 
wanted the lucre. Besides, we were a 
week behind already, and she hazarded 
the opinion that we would soon be 
another week behind, and then where 
would she come in ? All this and other 
things she told us in a suave but firm 
tone. Steel in velvet is a bad thing to 

Something had to be done, and done 
quickly. But how was I to define that 
something? The only thing that was 
clear in my mind was that whatever the 
something was, I would have to be the 
one to do it, for Ward was not to be 
depended upon. He was a nice fellow, 
but he lacked initiative and vigour of 
action. In tight places he always looked 
to me. 

That night fortune favoured the brave. 
I borrowed a quarter, and with it I won 
ten dollars. It happened like this : 

A New Phase 255 

The baritone of the Tivoli Opera House 
was shaking dice at a bar in Market Street 
with two of his friends. They all knew 
me, and when I sauntered in they asked 
me as a matter of course to have a drink. 
I assented. As I was taking the drink I 
stood watching them, wishing the while 
that I could take part in the game. 
Finally I plucked up and tried to borrow 
a quarter from one of them. " Just for a 
shake," I put it. But he didn't see it. 
He said it was unlucky to lend money to 
a man and then gamble with him for it. 
The baritone, however, was not super- 
stitious. He lent me a quarter, and said 
he would win it back off me just for fun. 
But before he knew where he was I had 
won ten dollars off him. Poor baritone ! 
He tried to double or quit, but I won 
every throw. I had the luck of the man 
who is in his last ditch. The baritone 
had been paid his salary that night at the 
Tivoli, but I'd have won it all and every- 
thing else in sight. He stopped, however, 
and as no one else would play with me I 
came away jubilant, blessing the man who 

256 A Man Adrift 

had invented dice. Ward and I were 
saved. How astonished he was when I 
woke him up, as he lay in the bed in our 
little room, and rattled the big silver 
dollars under his nose ! 

There were days when Ward and I 
abstained from food altogether. We were 
unable even to raise the modest ten cents 
that would procure us two drinks, and a 
go at the free-lunch counter. The merits 
and demerits of the free-lunches of the 
neighbouring, and even the distant, 
saloons were well known to us. One 
was good for its soup at one o'clock. At 
another the corned beef was fine. And at 
the saloon on O'Farrell Street you could 
eat all you were able without the bar- 
tender looking at you in a pained and 
pointed way. The food was plentiful, 
but somewhat coarse of quality at some 
places, while at others it was choice but 

Of course, the climate of California is 
delightful. The air is clear and bright 
and full of life. But Ward and I couldn't 
eat the climate in our trying, hungry hours. 

A New Phase 257 

One evening we were holding one of 
our consultations. We were standing on 
the corner of Eddy and Market Streets. 
Our theme was how and where we should 
eat, for we hadn't eaten anything since 
the morning of the day before. Our luck 
seemed to have gone from us altogether. 

Different plans were brought up by us 
in turn, but none of them seemed to be 
worth putting into execution. There was 
too much of the forlorn hope about them. 
They had nearly all been tried before, 
and there is such a thing as driving the 
willing horse to death. Trees won't bear 
fruit for ever. 

At last I had an idea ! Forlorn but 
still an idea. Ward was to go one way, 
I was to go another way, and we were 
to meet in an hour's time at the corner 
where we were standing then. If either 
of us had raised anything by that time 
we were to go over and have a feast at 
the Palace Restaurant, a place where you 
could get one helping of meat, a big cup 
of coffee, and all "the bread and butter you 
could eat for fifteen cents. A meal like 


258 A Man Adrift 

this, where you could sit down and take 
it comfortably, was much more satisfying 
than a raid on the best free lunch counter 
in 'Frisco. 

We parted. What Ward was going to 
do in the allotted time, I forget. My 
plan, however, was to go and try and find 
Napoleoni Galliani a fine, big Italian 
and borrow a dollar from him. I used 
to stand next to him when I sang first 
bass in the Tivoli chorus. But that was 
before I got the sack. 

In about an hour's time I was back at 
the corner, waiting for Ward to come up. 
Soon, I saw him approaching. As he got 
near I could see by his face that he had 
failed. He had been unsuccessful. 

I walked quickly up to him, and smiled 
in a large and joyous sort of way. " Come 
on ! " I exclaimed, cheerily, as I took his 
arm. " It's all right. Let's go over to the 
Palace and eat ! " 

Ward's face brightened up wonderfully. 
He was another man. His step became 
springy and elastic as he walked across 
Market Street 

A New Phase 259 

Soon we were in the Palace, seated and 
enjoying a good meal. We had helpings 
of meat and fish and everything in sight. 
Ward was a most valiant and capable 
trencherman, but on this occasion he 
simply surpassed himself. He was a tall, 
lanky man, with a great natural aptitude 
for the putting away of food. 

At last the feast was over, and I topped 
it off by ordering two good cigars. We 
would light them at the desk as we were 
going out. As we stood up to go the 
waiter handed me the bill. I took the 
bill, which was a heavy one for the place, 
and examined it leisurely to see if all the 
items were correct. 

And then we walked easily up to the 
desk where the -bills had to be presented 
and paid. Here I nodded to Ward and 
said, " Go on. I'll settle the bill." 

Ward walked out into the street, and 
then I lit my cigar at the little gas-jet 
which burned at the desk. I did it very 
deliberately. Then I turned slowly to 
the cashier, and handed him the bill. 
He was a German, with fair hair and 

260 A Man Adrift 

soft blue eyes. I remember his eyes well, 
because I looked so steadily and squarely 
into them. 

" Put that on the shelf right behind 
you till I come in to-morrow," I said in 
an even voice, pointing to the bill. I 
kept upon him a firm and fixed stare. 

The German looked at the bill, paused, 
but said nothing. Then an angry look 
came into his face. He realised that I 
had come into the restaurant, and had 
run up a big bill without having the 
money to pay for it. This was a danger- 
ous thing to do in 'Frisco. A man ran a 
chance of being half-killed by the waiters 
and bouncers. 

I thought he was going to shout for help, 
but always I kept my eye on his eye, and 
the angry look gradually left his face. He 
never uttered a word. The whole thing 
didn't take over a few seconds. It was all 
over before the next customer had come 
up to the desk. 

" Put that on the shelf behind you," I 
repeated, slowly. " There, on the shelf." 
He turned, and did as I bid him. His 

A New Phase 261 

eye met mine again. Then I took another 
light for my cigar, and walked out very 
calmly and easily. 

I saw Ward. He had been looking 
through the window, taking the whole 
thing in. A look of horror was in his 
face. If he had known the true state of 
affairs he would never have been able to 
eat a mouthful. " You had no money I " 
he gasped. 

" No," I said. 


ANOTHER time I was going down Market 
Street wondering what would turn up 
next, when suddenly I caught sight of 
Count Straps ambling towards me from 
across the road. He knew me when I 
was singing at the Tivoli. The Count 
was a rather mild-looking young man, 
who wore long hair and a cowboy hat. 
Why he was called Count Straps was one 
of the mysteries of California. Report 
had it that he had run through three 
hundred thousand dollars in two years. 

"Hello! ""he exclaimed, as he shook 
hands with me. " Glad to see you. How 
are you getting on? Come and have a 

Not wishing to hurt his feelings, I con- 

Earning Thirty Dollars 263 

sented, and we turned into the nearest 
saloon. Here a magnificent free lunch 
struck my gaze. I was glad that I had 
been considerate enough to accept the 
Count's offer as I walked over and an- 
nexed three sandwiches. 

" Two lagers ! " called out the Count, 
in a bold tone to the bartender. I turned 
and looked at him. The impressiveness 
of his tone almost made me think he had 
no money to pay for the order. I had 
seen the game worked before. 

But happily I was deceived. The Count 
had not yet got down to bed rock. 

" I want you to come aboard my yacht," 
he said, as I finished my lager, quickly. 
" I am taking some friends for a month's 
cruise down the coast to Santa Barbara 
and back again. You've been a sailor ? " 
He paused a little to see what effect his 
words had upon me. " And you can look 
out for things generally," he concluded, as 
he turned and signalled to the bartender 
to let us have another drink. 

I reflected rapidly as I walked over to 
the lunch counter and annexed more 

264 A Man Adrift 

sandwiches. A month's cruise would do 
me no harm! "Done!" I exclaimed, 
" Done ! But is there anything in it, 
Count? I'm broke, and I need a suit of 

" You do," he assented, looking me up 
and down. " But no worse than I do my- 
self." It was a fact. "But," he added, 
sagely, "when a man has no money he 
should dress well. I suppose I shall soon 
have to turn into a dude myself." 

" Oh ! " I put in, " if things are tight, 
Count, we'll call the money end of it off. 
I'll go with you anyhow. I think a 
month away from 'Frisco would do both 
myself and the town good." 

" No, we won't call it off," he said. 
"You can have thirty dollars at the end 
of the trip. You don't need the money 
now. If you had it you'd only spend it. 
Thirty dollars at the end of the trip. 
Will that do?" 

It would do. 

So it was settled that I should turn up 
at the wharf on the next day. And the 
Count lending me a dollar, we parted. 

Earning Thirty Dollars 265 

I was sorry I was not able to share the 
dollar with Ward, but he had left 'Frisco 
to go to work on a ranch. 

The getting together of my belongings 
was a job that would not take up very 
much of my time. All that I had was a 
couple of shirts and some socks. This 
did not bother me much, for it is not cold 
off the coast of California. If it came on 
to rain I would borrow oilskins from the 
Count or one of his friends. Thus I was 
easy in my mind as far as an outfit was 
concerned. The only thing necessary for 
me to do was to create a bit of an imposing 
effect as I appeared on the wharf. With 
this end in view, I got my landlady to lend 
me an old worn portmanteau which had 
lain for a long time in her lumber-room. 
This I polished up. 

I was hailed with a shout from the 
Count when I appeared the next morn- 
ing. At once he introduced me to his 
friends, who were standing with him on 
the wharf. I glanced down sideways at 
the portmanteau which was swinging 
in my hard, to see if it looked all right. 

2 66 A Man Adrift 

It had a polished, full-looking appearance. 
I had helped out the shirts and socks 
with some books and old papers. 

I ran my eye over his yacht. It was a 
beautiful little sloop-rigged boat of about 
fifteen tons. She looked well and fit, 
and steered with a tiller. She'll do, I 
thought to myself, but I wonder how he 
has grubbed her. The truth was, this 
accessory to the trip rather interested 
me, for things of late had not been going 
satisfactorily with me in the eating line. 
I had been subsisting mainly on hopes 
and free lunches. 

In this particular I found that the 
Count had excelled himself in fact, too 
much excelled himself, for he had got 
enough wines and spirits aboard to stock 
a canteen. It was all very well to be 
jovial, I told him, but too much joviality 
would get us on the rocks. Cruising along 
a coast always wants careful watching. 
And, being in effect the captain of the 
yacht, I prevailed upon him to stow 
away nearly all the drinkables in the 

Earning Thirty Dollars 267 

Soon I found that I was not only cap- 
tain, but I was the crew as well ; for the 
Count's friends knew nothing about the 
ways of a boat, while he himself only 
knew enough to take risks. How we got 
safely out of harbour and through the 
Golden Gates will always remain a puzzle 
to me. 

We were nearly run down four or five 
times. On one occasion we were within 
an ace of it. The Count had taken it 
upon himself to steer while I tended jib. 
He tried to cut across the bows of a big 
steamer which was coming head on to us. 
He would have made it all right, though 
it was risky, but he let the yacht get up 
into the wind, and she jibed before we 
knew where we were. The main boom, 
as it swept round, nearly knocked two of 
his friends overboard. 

The steamer managed to stop as we 
were right under her bows with our main- 
sail shaking and flopping. The mate 
leaned over the rail, and cursed and 
damned the Count with fluency and 
vigour. I came in for my share, too. 

268 A Man 'Adrift 

But the Count got the lion's share of 
the benediction because he was at the 

After this I took the tiller myself. The 
Count's dignity was injured a little by the 
variety and vigour of the insults and 
epithets the mate had hurled at him. He 
didn't seem to realise that we were precious 
lucky to get off with only a left-handed 
benediction. If the steamer had struck 
us, he would certainly have lost his yacht, 
and some of us perhaps our lives. When 
I put this to him with emphasis, he became 
himself again, did the Count ! 

At last we were through the Golden 
Gates, and out into the free water. Then 
I began to think a little about the situation. 
Before that I had had no time to think 
about anything but trying to save the 
yacht, and ourselves. I had passed through 
a succession of bad quarter-hours. 

I was in a situation at once ludicrous 
and dangerous. Here was I with five 
fellows in a boat, four of whom knew 
nothing about sailoring, and the fifth less 
than nothing. And, as far as I was con- 

Earning Thirty Dollars 269 

cerned, I myself didn't know too much 
about the handling of a boat with a fore 
and aft rig. Besides, I had hardly any 
knowledge of the coast. 

I would have to do absolutely all the 
work! None of them could be trusted to 
take a watch, for none of them could steer. 
And the adventures the yacht had gone 
through in getting out of harbour proved 
the Count to be a reed of the most broken 
kind. He was a nice fellow, but a reed ! 
He had entered upon this pleasure-trip 
depending on me to pull it through safely. 
It would be no pleasure-trip for me. I 
would have hard work and anxiety all the 
time. There was humour, to be sure, in 
the situation ; but the humour was dis- 
counted by the danger. 

I began to wish I had stayed in San 

We ran along till it began to get dark 
I at the tiller all the time. The Count's 
four friends were in the cabin. They were 
sick, I am thankful to say. As for the 
Count himself, he was on deck, very much 
to the fore, and telling me all sorts of 

270 A Man Adrift 

things about nothing in particular. At 
last I said, " That's all right." I hadn't 
been listening to what he had been saying. 
"Tell me," I asked, suddenly, as I gave 
the tiller a shove, " do you know of a 
place where we could run in for the night ? 
If I'm to be the captain and crew all rolled 
up into one, I might as well have a little 

To my utter amazement, the Count did 
know of a little bay where we could run 
in and shelter. I had asked him the 
question more to shut him up than any- 
thing else, for I was irritated right 
through. His being of any use at a pinch 
gave me a decided shock. "Where?" I 
asked, incredulously. "Off over behind 
that point," he replied, indicating the 
direction. " It's a little bay with a sandy, 
shelving bottom. I've been there before, 
when Cregan was running the yacht for 
me. We ought to make it in half an 
hour with this breeze." 

I said nothing, but headed for the 
direction he gave me. His remembering 
it seemed too good to be true. I deter- 

Earning Thirty Dollars 271 

mined if it turned out all right to have a 
better opinion of him in future. 

It did turn out all right, for sure enough 
I ran the yacht into as fine a little anchor- 
age as one could wish for. What the 
name of the place was, the Count was 
unable to tell me. But that mattered 
little. The fact of his piloting me to it at 
all helped me to forget his curious method 
of steering us through the harbour in the 

The Count let down the jib and dropped 
the anchor as I ran her up close to the 
shore. Then we took in the mainsail. 
Soon after this, the others got over their 
sea sickness, and we all had a jolly supper 
together in the cabin. The drinkables 
were brought into requisition. As captain, 
the Count deferred to me as to whether 
or not drink should be allowed. But I 
thought that I might as well relax dis- 
cipline, on the grounds that we were at 
anchor, and that there was no one to 
discipline but myself. Also, that as pilot, 
the Count was really in charge of the ship. 

We made a night of it 

A Man Adrift 

The next day things went on more 
smoothly, but I had to do all the steering 
just the same. The Count tended the jib, 
and told me various stories. He had been 
a good deal around, and had had the 
excitement of getting through a fortune 
in a hurry. His friends stayed drinking 
below in the cabin most of the time. 
When night came we dropped anchor 
again in another little bay. The Count 
was at least a good pilot. 

And we made another night of it. 

In time we worked our way down to 
Drake's Bay. Here we stayed two or 
three days. It was a most beautiful bay 
this bay where the English rover had 
cast his anchor in the long ago. We got 
into it in the morning. The sky was 
gloriously blue, and the sun was shining as 
it shines only in California with a soft, 
golden brilliance. I .was glad that my 
wanderings had led me to such a country. 
After all there was something to be said 
in favour of knocking about the world. 
The old proverb had it that a rolling 
stone gathered no moss. But surely, 

Earning Thirty Dollars 273 

at least, in the rolling the stone became 
bright ! 

We enjoyed ourselves while we were 
here loafing and lazing around on shore 
in the sun in the daytime, and sleeping 
aboard the yacht at night. The Count 
and his friends were most jovial and com- 
panionable. We got all the drinkables 
out of the hold, and stowed them in the 
cabin. The Count joked me, saying what 
would they do if the crew mutinied. I 
replied that if the crew mutinied, the 
captain would come to the front most 

A few hours before our time for sailing 
out of the bay the Count made a proposal. 
There were some cattle scattered over the 
hills, and as we were short of fresh meat 
he said it would be a good idea to scout 
around and shoot a calf. I agreed with 
him that it was an excellent idea 
provided no one caught us carrying it 
out. Living in civilisation began to 
chasten me. There was a flavour of 
piracy about the suggestion reminiscent 

of the old buccaneers who had made this 


274 A Man Adrift 

part of the Californian coast one of their 
stamping grounds. But after a little per- 
suasion I began to see the romance of the 
idea. When you are amid the ruins of 
Rome you are naturally apt to feel some- 
what Roman ! We started out on the 

But no calves were to be found. There 
were nothing but big cows and bulls or 
bullocks. The calves must have known 
of our evil intent, and made themselves 
scarce. There was no use in killing any- 
thing that would be too heavy to get 
aboard. Besides, the mind of the Count 
ran on veal. We had to give up the idea. 

At last we were riding safe at anchor 
before Santa Barbara. We had got 
through the first part of the trip. We 
stayed here some time, as I thought the 
captain and crew needed a rest. Having 
to steer continuously through whole days 
in succession was rather wearying. 

It would be too long a story to tell 
about the second half of the trip. Enough 
to say that I more than earned the money 
I was to get from Count Straps. As 

Earning Thirty Dollars 275 

before, I had to do all the steering. And 
only that we were usually able to put in 
somewhere at night I could never have 
pulled through. As it was, we almost 
went ashore on the Seal Rocks just out- 
side the harbour of San Francisco. I had 
made the mistake of trying to get in in the 
night-time. The Count was in the cabin 
drinking with his friends. They wanted 
me to drink, too, but I felt that I needed 
all my wits about me to keep a lookout 
and to manage the tiller. I had to leave 
it, and run forward to tend the jib when- 
ever I put the boat about. I got the 
Count up to pilot me, but he saw too 
many lights at once. 

When I heard the roar of the breakers 
I thought we were done for. Drunken 
shouting and singing from the cabin below 
mingled with the ugly, deadly roar of the 
surf. I was just beginning to see the 
black heads of the rocks in the moonlight. 

But I managed to sheer away, and, 
after an anxious time, I had her through 
the Golden Gates. 

When I got to the wharf, by good luck 

276 A Man Adrift 

a loafer was hanging around. He grabbed 
the line I threw him, and hitched it round 
a spile. And I fervently thanked the 
Lord, as I hauled in the yacht and made 
her fast. The trip was over ! 

The next day I walked up Market 
Street with my thirty dollars safe in my 
pocket. The Count had been as good as 
his word. And I went into the first 
tailor's shop I came to to buy myself a 
hand-me-down suit of clothes. 


I HAD twenty dollars left after buying the 
suit of clothes, and I thought I might as 
well take a little relaxation after captain- 
ing the Count's yacht. I would like to 
have a look around California to lounge 
through sunshine. 

For the sunshine of California is past 
the sunshine of any other part of the 
planet. I am sure that every globe-trotter 
and lounger will agree with me in saying 
that a difference in latitude makes a 
corresponding difference in the quality 
of the sun's rays. I mean quality as 
distinct from intensity. Sol has varied 
moods. In Calcutta he is piercingly ag- 
gressive ; in London he makes you sad 
because of the doleful way in which he 
veils his face in fog ; in Greenland he is 

278 A Man Adrift 

pale and ethereal, and seems as if he were 
not for this world. 

But in California he makes up for his 
delinquencies. He is in his best mood. 
He behaves himself. His rays are at 
once as brilliant as they are in Calcutta, 
and as mild and genial in their effect as 
they are in England. He shines with un- 
sultry brilliance. 

Climate is the most vital topic in 
California. It is the first, second, and 
third thing that is talked about. People 
who have hardly been in the country a 
month become confirmed climate -ex- 
pounders. It is impossible to escape from 
their lucid and exhaustive way of putting 
it. If you wish to become unpopular and 
despised, all you have to do is to barely 
hint that the climate is not quite absolute 

However, there is one thing that the 
Californian or, rather, the San Franciscan 
refrains from praising to the skies, and 
that is part of the climate, too. This 
thing is sand. If you are foolish enough 
to walk along Market Street in the after 

Lounging through Sunshine 279 

noon when the kona or trade wind is 
blowing from the Pacific Ocean, you will 
speedily become acquainted with this sand. 
The kona gathers it up from the neigh- 
bouring hills. It is an affectionate and 
pleased-to-meet-you kind of sand, and gets 
into your eyes, mouth, nostrils, ears, 
pockets, under your vest, and everywhere 
it can. After it has dallied with you for a 
quarter of an hour, you begin to feel sorry 
for ever having come to 'Frisco, and to 
wonder feebly at the Californian's climate- 
praising faculty. When next you hear him 
losing himself in a panegyric concerning 
the gilded climate, you will, if you are 
unwise, hazard a sarcastic remark about the 
benefits of this sand. For answer the 
panegyrist will look at you in reproachful 

The Chinese have a great hold in San 
Francisco. You have but to turn up 
Clay Street from Kearney Street, walk 
a block or two, and, lo ! you are in a 
Chinese city. You are in the midst of 
the filth, squalor, and morbidness of the 
Mongol. Aye, the Chinese have come 

280 A Man Adrift 

here to stay. Here are their joss-houses, 
their theatres, their uncanny-looking 
shops, and themselves, smoking opium 
mixed with tobacco from queer-looking 
pipes. Even the very streets are as 
narrow and uneven as they are in the 
lower quarters of a town in far-away 
China. Little Chinese children, who 
look like quaint, animated wax dolls, move 
around gravely. Their playing with one 
another, if such their solemn movements 
can be called, has all the gravity of some 
religious ceremony. 

If you want to see California at its 
best, however, you must not stop in San 
Francisco. As I said before, the sand 
is too familiar and affectionate for one's 
comfort. No, you must go south. Here 
you will find California living up to its 
reputation. You will find the climate as 
glorious and as beautiful as they say it 
is which is saying a great deal. Take 
Santa Barbara, for example. It lies 
under the shadow of a great mountain. 
Stretching out before it is the laze and 
heave of the great Pacific Ocean. The 

Lounging through Sunshine 281 

scenery around this part of California 
is the most wonderful and beautiful in 
the world. It realises the ideal of the 
greatest descriptive writers. Byron him- 
self has not imagined a land-picture more 
magnificent. There is a Jesuit mission- 
house here, two hundred years old, a relic 
of the Spaniards. As you approach from 
the seaward great, high, snow-topped 
mountains rise and rise before you. You 
sail on and on till at last a little town 
seems to come up out of the waters. A 
town framed in the soft clear fire of a 
sun of gold. It is Santa Barbara. 

Forty miles inland you come upon Los 
Angeles. Before it is a desert of sand. 
It is a strange-looking town a town that 
is at once old and young. In a way, it 
is a hard-looking town, possessing not 
a tithe of the beauty of Santa Barbara. 
I can't for the life of me see why the 
Spaniards named it after the angels. 
They must have been possessed of great 
vigour of imagination, for through the best 
part of the year its heat is not calculated 
to make one think of Heaven. I believe 

282 A Man Adrift 

there is a fiction abroad to the effect 
that Los Angeles has everything to be 
desired in the way of climate. I am 
sorry to have to be heretic enough to 
deny this. The name of the town, I 
suppose, sounds well to the far outsider. 
He doesn't know, of course, that one of 
the interesting things about the climate 
of California is the fact that it changes 
tremendously within the radius of a 
few miles. There is a big difference 
between the coast and fifty miles 

Yes, I wonder why the Spaniards 
named this town after the angels. It 
could hardly be that the heat of it made 
them think of the fallen angels when they 
were christening it, for the Spaniards 
were conquerors of the devoutest calibre. 
They slew and prayed and prayed and 
slew, and often, I presume, they indulged 
in both these pastimes at one and the 
same time. Again, it might have been 
that a sense of the humorous was upon 
them when they were performing the 
town's baptismal rite. But this is hardly 

Lounging through Sunshine 283 

probable, for they were civilisers, and, 
as everyone knows, civilisers are an 
earnest, stern, unhumorous lot. A joke 
must have a steel point to it before they 
can appreciate it. No, it could neither 
have been humour nor irreverence that 
prompted the Spaniards as to the nam- 
ing of this place. The reason is a 
deep, artesian mystery, and life is too 
abrupt to try and probe to the bottom 
of it. 

This town is the home of the tamale. 
For the benefit of those who have never 
known the joy of eating a tamale on the 
street at midnight, I must try and describe 
what it is made of, what it is like, and 
its effect generally. In the first place, 
it is very warm to the hands, and looks 
like an overgrown bunged-up banana. It 
is made up of chicken, corn meal, strong 
spices, and other things known and un- 
known. These are all boiled and mashed 
up together, and laid out on big corn 
leaves, which are rolled into the shape of 
the aforesaid banana, and tied up at both 
ends. Then a man stands on the corner 

284 A Man Adrift 

late at night to sell them to the rounders. 
He keeps them steaming in a big tin 
boiler, just as they do Indian corn in 
New York. You give him a dime, and 
he hands you out a tamale on a fork. 
You grab the tamale off the fork ; you 
strip off its leaves, and commence to en- 
joy yourself, thinking the while that there 
is some good after all in the skill and in- 
telligence of man. The effect of the tamale 
on one is great. It warms you up from 
top to toe like good old wine, feeds you, 
and makes you feel that things are going 
well generally. You become optimistic, 
forget your radical, destructive ideas, and 
begin to think kindly even of old time, 
moss-covered institutions. I have seen 
and eaten tamales in New York, but 
they are no more to be compared with 
the Los Angeles - - or angel tamales 
than well, words fail to tell the differ- 

In this town you get good wine at a low 
price. Of course, the wine hasn't got the 
ancient and hoary pedigree of a wine of 
Southern France, but then I need hardly 

Lounging through Sunshine 285 

point out that bad, faked-up wine with 
an alleged ancient pedigree of the hoary 
order, and that also possesses the 
additional merit of being tremendously 
expensive, is hardly the most desir- 
able thing in the world to stack up 

After awhile here one gets into the 
knack of using up a great deal of time 
in the doing of nothing. The very air 
seems to whisper softly : " Never do to- 
day what you can put off till to-morrow." I 
can well understand how the older inhabit- 
ants have attained to such a degree of skill 
in the subtle art of killing time. " Hurry 
up," is a phrase which has lost its meaning 
for them. They are the masters of time 
instead of being its slaves. This is all 
wrong, from a New York or London 
standpoint. But then it is comfortable 
and comfort isn't such a bad thing after 

It is easy to know people who have 
just got in from the Eastern States by 
the way they bustle round trying to do 
four things at once. But in time they 

286 A Man Adrift 

become wise, and calm down. The 
climate soothes them. 

The people plant orange trees in their 
gardens, and the effect of the bright 
green leaves and full golden fruit is most 

The country round about is most 
favourable to the cultivation of oranges. 
You may drive along by orange groves 
for miles and miles. There are no fences 
to guard them. Think of it! All you 
have to do is to stop your horse, get out, 
and help yourself. The proprietors don't 
mind the fruit is so plentiful. During 
the picking season the tramps come down 
from San Francisco to help to gather in 
the crop. Their pay is a dollar a day 
and their board. For once they for- 
swear their allegiance to the god of 
Rest, and indulge in a little toil. But 
the toil is light, and they go about it 

Tough-looking specimens of the genus 
homo are these tramps. But they are all 
healthy and vigorous of look, and their 
faces are thoughtful of expression. Like 

Lounging through Sunshine 287 

the Hindu philosophers, they are much 
given to introspection. They have the 
leisure to discover themselves to them- 
selves. The climate is also favourable 
to their intellectual development. They 
come here from the East, where in the 
winter things in general are cold and 
unfreshing, and immediately they fall 
in love with the country. They are 
enthralled. They bless God for having 
made such a beautiful, easy-to-loaf-in land, 
and they become sincere and ardent 
patriots who are willing to stay with that 
land till death. 

I would like to say a word as to the 
tramp in America. 

He is a man who has come to the con- 
clusion that hard, sustained labouring 
work is bad for his general health. A 
little of it now and then is all right ; but 
to keep at it for a month or a year is not 
to be thought of. 

Reasoning thus, he becomes a tramp. 
He goes from place to place, from spot 
to spot. Gradually he develops his gift 
for thinking. He becomes a full- 

288 A Man Adrift 

fledged philosopher upon the subject of 

Don't run away with the idea that our 
tramp walks very much. Don't imagine 
that hour after hour he is climbing up 
hill and down dale. No, he is too clever 
for that. And besides, America is a big, 
wide country. It abounds in immense 
prairies and chains of lofty mountains. 
Walking it would smack of the nature of 

No, our tramp rides. He presses the 
railway companies into his service. He 
takes advantage of the resources of 
civilisation. At bottom he is really the 
most civilised of persons. Don't forget 
this. He is a voluptuary without 

Also he has a certain sense of honesty. 
He is too honest to rob any poor man 
out of a day's work. He would rather 

He is not particular as to his accom- 
modation when he is taking a ride on a 
train. He doesn't want something for 
nothing, and that something of the very 

Lounging through Sunshine 289 

best, as people usually do. He is that 
rara avis an uncritical deadhead. He 
doesn't cry out for a stall. No ; a gallery 
seat will do. 

He will take his ride on the cow-catcher 
of the engine, or on the front of the blind- 
baggage, or, if needs must, in under the 
engine on the trucks. Or he will ride in 
a box-car or on the bumpers. He is not 
particular. And when the brakesman tells 
him to get off he does when the train 
stops. But he gets on again when the 
train starts. 

In common with all men who have 
nothing whatever to do with the govern- 
ing of the State, he takes an intense 
interest in politics. He picks up old, 
thrown-away papers, reads them, and dis- 
cusses what they say and what they don't 
say with his fellow tramps. He is 
interested in the workings of the tariff, 
in the Chinese question, in the negro 
question. He would like to see America 
prosperous and respected by foreign 
countries. He thinks the Government 
ought to build more ships and increase 

2 go A Man Adrift 

the strength of the Army. He is not, 
however, very strong on the rights of the 
working man. The working man is 
always striking or growling about the 
rights of labour. This doesn't appeal to 
the tramp, for deep continuous thought 
has shown him that in the nature of things 
labour can have no rights. Either a man 
must work and shut up about it, or he 
must avoid working altogether. 

The people who win the tramp's admira- 
tion are the Senators and Congressmen, 
who talk a lot about nothing, live well, 
and, at the same time, do nothing. He 
also thinks approvingly of the Commis- 
sioners who go abroad to settle things. 
He feels there is a strong tie between 
these people and himself. They do the 
same thing he does, only very much 
better. They excel in the fine art of 
sitting down to settle things. And, what 
is more to the point, they make it 

Occasionally the tramp becomes weak 

enough to do some work. But this weak- 
ness doesn't last long. He soon resumes 

Lounging through Sunshine 291 

his wonted vigour. The work, however, 
is usually of a light and pleasant nature. 
Peach-picking is what he favours most. 
This work is easy and healthy and shady, 
and the peaches are delicious of aroma 
and taste. The season lasts six weeks. 
He gets something a day and his board, 
with the privilege of sleeping in the barn 
in the hay. 

The tramp's real means of livelihood 
is begging. He can tell at a glance a 
house where he will get a "hand-out." 
A " hand-out" is a parcel of food, which 
derives its name from being handed out 
through a half-opened door. 

Yes, the tramp develops into a skilful 
and expert beggar. Some people may 
think that there is no art in begging, but 
if they do they are much mistaken. It 
takes a clever man to know what stranger 
to ask for money. As he goes along the 
street he must be able to single out at a 
glance the giving type of man ; for, as the 
tramp will inform you, there are really in 
existence men who like to give money to 
anyone who asks for it. They are rare, 

292 A Man Adrift 

but they do exist. The thing is to be 
able to single out this man, and then to 
know if he has money in his pocket, and 
if he be in the right mood. To do this 
requires genius. 

But let us go back to the land of sun- 
shine : 

San Diego lies to the south of Los 
Angeles, and is quite close to the frontier 
line between Mexico and the United 
States some six or eight miles from it. 
Here the climate is perfection. The 
temperature is pretty nearly the same all 
the year round between seventy-five and 
eighty degrees Fahrenheit. It is a fine 
place for invalids, who travel to it from 
all parts of the world. Its air is at once 
bracing and soft. Behind it, in the 
distance, stand great mountains. Before 
it stretches the ocean. On Coronado 
Beach a little way from the town 
stands the Coronado Hotel. It is an 
immense hotel, and well appointed. Only 
the wealthiest of travellers may put up 
there. I only gazed at it. 

The older part of this town which was 

Lounging through Sunshine 293 

built by the Mexicans, is very picturesque. 
The houses are of adobe, and often are 
quaintly beautiful. Here live the Mexi- 
can part of the population. They have 
coppery-coloured, swarthy faces, and black 
eyes. They have a mixture of Spanish 
and Indian blood in their veins. The 
women often are beautiful, but they age 
early. They are old at twenty - five. 
When a Mexican woman is beautiful, she 
is beautiful indeed magnetic, flashing of 
eye, and finely formed. 

I remember the morning I first lounged 
into Santa Cruz. This is another little 
gem of a town on the southern coast. It 
is so cool and green and beautiful. From 
here I went to see the Big Trees. They 
were six miles away. The way to them 
was over a stage road built along 
the side of a great gorge which cuts 
through the mountains. The scenery 
here is wild and grand. And gloriously 

The magnificence of the trees is hardly 
to be described. They are stupendous 
immense of girth, and running up straight 

294 A. Man Adrift 

for hundreds of feet. One of them has a 
great hole cut through the base of its 
trunk through which the' stage - coach 
passes. This will give some idea of their 
vastness. They are all nearly of the same 
size. The effect is awesome. You feel so 
puny standing by the side of a tremendous 
silent Titan that has lived through the 

There is a little town not very far from 
here called San Bueneventura. It also is 
built right on the edge of the ocean. At 
this point the waves thunder in with great 
force, because of a reef that lies some 
distance out. You can hear the roar of 
these waves miles away. In the town, 
where all is calm and clear and bright, 
this roaring, as of a constant, wild storm, 
has an odd effect. There is nothing like 
it along the whole coast of California. 
The Mexicans have a superstition con- 
cerning it. They say that God has caused 
the waves to thunder there in wrath 
because of the desecration of their land 
by the Gringos, or Americanos. 

Two hundred years ago the Jesuits built 

Lounging through Sunshine 295 

in this town a church, which is there still. 
It is long and low, and dark-looking, and 
is surmounted by a great wooden cross. 
In it the Jesuits converted and baptized 
the Indians after the Spaniards had 
crushed them into subjection. When the 
soldiers had subjected the body, the priests 
thought it well to subject the soul. The 
roof of the church is low and heavily 
rafted. The rude wooden benches where- 
on the Indians sat are still there. Before 
the small, simple altar a light burns. It 
is the sanctuary light. It has been burn- 
ing there all through these two hundred 
years. Not once has it been out. It 
is a flame small and blue and steady. 
Typical of the indomitableness, and slow, 
never-dying persistence of the Jesuit. 
Before the altar the Virgin stands. In 
her arms she holds the Babe. 

San Luis Obispo is about twenty miles 
inland from San Bueneventura. I think 
this is the most Mexican in appearance 
of all the towns in Southern California. 
Some of the larger houses have curious 
inner courtyards, roofed over with glass. 

296 A Man Adrift 

In them the Mexicans used to sit and 
chat and smoke cigarettos. The idea of 
building these glass-roofed courtyards was 
borrowed in the long ago from the Aztecs, 
themselves a mighty and powerful race 
whom Cortes conquered. The ease with 
which the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs 
was due to the fact that they believed the 
white men to be the sons of their god, 
Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl was really a 
man who dwelt with the Aztecs, probably 
as far back as the birth of Christ. He 
taught them useful arts, and when he left 
them he promised to come back again 
with a numerous progeny. The remem- 
brance of this promise was kept alive by 
tradition, just as the Jews keep alive 
their belief in the coming of a Messiah. 
Quetzalcoatl was a white man probably 
from Europe. So goes the old legend. 
When the Spaniards came the Aztecs 
thought that their god had kept his 
promise, and they welcomed them. It 
was only when the white men had com- 
mitted unheard-of atrocities and treacheries 
that the Aztecs thought of trying to repel 

Lounging through Sunshine 297 

them. But even then the Aztecs were 

demoralised. They thought they were 

fighting against the sons of their 


THERE was a certain comic opera com- 
pany that used to go on tour through 
California and Oregon, and round the 
Pacific Slope generally. The manager 
of this company was one of the nicest 
men I have ever met. True, he was a 
little shy about the paying of salaries, 
but for all that his heart was in the right 
place. A manager can't pay out what 
doesn't come in. And I must say that 
when he was telling one on salary day 
of the wonderful things that would happen 
the week after in the way of finance 
he did it in a most pleasing and artistic 

Everyone liked him. And I have 
heard people say that they would almost 
as soon work for him without salary as 

Operatic Foragers 299 

for some managers with salary. I can't 
say that my devotion to him was as pro- 
nounced as this, but still it was pronounced. 

It was when his company had got into 
a hole that he showed forth in his best 
form. Say if he were unable to pay their 
hotel bills, or unable to raise the fare to 
go to the next stand. Then his genius 
would bud and blossom forth. He would 
win over the hotel-keeper to let the trunks 
go, or he would deftly borrow five hundred 
or a thousand dollars from an almost com- 
plete stranger. 

He was a man with the true impres- 
ario's gift. 

After I had got back to 'Frisco from 
having an easy lounge through California, 
I was engaged by this genial manager to 
sing first bass in his chorus and to play 
small parts when called upon. The 
salary was fifteen dollars a week. I 
had heard, of course, that the ghost 
was decrepit, and not often able to 
walk, but this weighed little with me 
when once I came under the spell of 
the manager's magnetism. He described 

300 A Man Adrift 

the beauties of the country through which 
his company was to tour in a fine guide- 
book manner, and he let me have five 
dollars in advance. 

We opened in 'Los Angeles. Here we 
played for a month in the Pavilion. I 
believe the first opera that was put on 
was " Der Fledermaus." After that fol- 
lowed " Boccacio " and " The Beggar 
Student " and several other comic operas. 
We finished with "The Pirates of Pen- 


In Los Angeles the ghost walked we 
were paid our wages. And when the 
month was over the landlord of the hotel 
where the bulk of us were staying gave 
a champagne supper to the whole of the 
company. I will never forget that supper. 
I was sitting next to the prima donna, 
and I was astounded to hear her tell the 
waiter that she wanted beer instead of 
champagne. I thought that she must be 
a very democratic prima donna indeed, 
but I afterwards found out that the worst 
beer is better than the best Californian 

Operatic Foragers 301 

After we left Los Angeles we left home, 
for in no other town did we even make 
our expenses. The manager was put 
to the necessity of showing forth in his 
best form the whole time. He was doing 
nothing but borrowing money and sooth- 
ing the wrath of hotel-keepers. How he 
kept it up was a mystery. 

At last, however, it struck him that 
the company needed a rest, and he 
managed to get us to Santa Barbara, 
where he closed the season. His plan, 
he explained, was to have the men of the 
company camp out in the mountains till 
he could raise enough money to open up 
the season again. 

So we went out and camped in the 
Santa Ynez Mountains. 

One morning, in the mountains, after 
a scant breakfast, we sat around, dis- 
cussing and wondering what we would 
have to do next. Our position was 
serious. We had run out of food. True, 
we had rifles and ammunition, and there 
was plenty of game around us, but we 
had only one decent shot in the crowd, 

3oa A Man Adrift 

and he had had bad luck. The rest 
could hardly have hit a barn a 
hundred yards off. We were a sad lot 

The ladies of the company were stay- 
ing at a cheap hotel in Santa Barbara. 
Santa Barbara lay forty miles to the west, 
right on the coast. The way to it lay 
across a trail over parts of which a mule 
could not travel. Thus we had come 
away with comparatively little food. 
Alas, we had depended on our skill 
as hunters. 

We were bad fishermen also. The 
trout in the neighbouring stream would 
simply have nothing to say to us. So 
here we were in the midst of plenty with 
no hands to grasp it. 

As we were arguing, a luminous idea 
suddenly broke in upon me. "Why not 
kill a pig ? " I suggested. The suggestion 
was received with horror, for the pig I 
referred to was one of a drove of pigs 
that belonged to a rancher who allowed 
them to run in the mountains. No ! Such 
a thing could not be thought of! It would 

Operatic Foragers 303 

be nothing short of robbery ! Daylight 
robbery ! 

But I pointed out that we might per- 
petrate the deed at night or at dusk, 
thereby running less risk of having any 
of the rancher's men see us. If we were 
caught doing it, of course it would be 
rather bad. We might get shot, or at 
least arrested and taken to prison to 
Santa Barbara. To be shot would be our 
most likely fate, though ; for the men 
around a ranch in California were apt to 
be both good marksmen and believers 
in quick justice. The thing for us to do 
was to commit the deed expeditiously at 
dusk. I laid emphasis upon this point. 

After a little while I could see by their 
faces that my suggestion had germinated, 
and, in fact, was budding forth vigorously 
in their minds. The seed had fallen on 
good ground. They were short of food, 
and they were bad hunters ; and one 
could go right up and interview a pig 
without the introduction of a couple of 
hours' stalking. The only difficulty was 
the barrier raised up in their minds by 

304 A Man Adrift 

the sensitiveness of their ethics. But this 
was soon surmounted by their need. 
Hunger and ethics soon part company. 

When dusk came Charlie Johnson and 
I sallied forth. All day long we had 
been thinking of roast pig, and now was 
coming the beginning of the end. Our 
plan was to get as close to a pig as 
possible, shoot it, prepare it quickly, and 
bury the offal so as to leave no trace. I 
had a spade, and Charlie had a rifle. If 
a ranchman heard the shot, we based our 
chances of safety upon the probability of 
his thinking that we were hunting. 

The principal tenor of the company, 
who, needless to say, was stout, had given 
us a caution as to the size of the pig we 
were to select. A smallish one, he said, 
not more than a hundred and fifty pounds 
in weight. I didn't exactly see at the 
time his reason for being so particular, 
but afterwards it dawned upon me. 

Soon Charlie and I sighted what we 
took to be a suitable pig, quite after 
the stout tenor's fancy. It was standing 
near five or six others, and Charlie knelt 

Operatic Foragers 305 

down when near enough, took aim, and 
blazed away. It dropped with a bullet 
behind its ear. I rushed forward, and 
grabbed it by one of its forelegs as it 
lay struggling furiously. It was horribly 
strong, and it knocked me about a good 
deal, but Charlie soon finished it with 
his knife. It was then we saw that we 
had killed a bigger pig than we intended. 
The dusk had fallen upon us too rapidly. 

After we had prepared it and buried 
the evidences of our deed, we tied its 
legs together, and cut down the limb 
of a small tree. This we passed through 
the legs. Then we lifted up the carcase 
and carried it. Charlie went first, with 
one end of the tree limb on his right 
shoulder, while I had the other end of it 
on my left shoulder. But the pig was 
so heavy that we could go no more than 
a few yards before we had to put it down. 
Plainly, we had made a bad mistake as 
to the size. 

By this time night was upon us, and 
we were getting nervous. There was a 
chance any minute of our being fired 

306 A Man Adrift 

upon ' or challenged by someone. And 
our camp was nearly a mile away. The 
moon was also coming up clear and strong. 
Hardly the best thing for us ! We would 
never be able to get to camp with our 
load. What were we to do? 

Suddenly I said to Charlie : 

"Look here, old man! We are two 
numbskulls! Here are we taking all the 
risk in this business while the other fellows 
are luxuriously waiting in camp to begin 
the feast when we arrive. They take no 
risk, but they will eat as much of it as we 
shall. Perhaps more." 

Charlie mopped his forehead. "You're 
right," he said. " What should we do ? " 

" Do? Why, let us leave the pig here, 
go back to camp, and make all hands help 
to carry it in turn. If they eat, they must 
share the risk." 

So back to camp we went. We stated 
the case to them as they stood around the 
fire. There were a great many blank 
looks. Nobody seemed to like the idea. 
The feast was all right, but the getting 
of it bothered them. The stout tenor was 

Operatic Foragers 307 

especially indignant. His idea had been 
for us to kill a small pig, so that we might 
carry it to camp ourselves. If we were 
shot, it wouldn't have been his funeral. 
He had foreseen what would happen if we 
killed a big one. 

At last the logic of hunger proved to 
them that the right thing to do was to 
come and take their chance. So we all 
left camp in a body. The stout tenor 
wanted to stay behind, but I said a few 
forcible things to him. 

In about an hour's time we were back 
with the pig. No accident had occurred. 
No prying ranchman had been around. 
Everything had been serene. As serene 
as the moon ! 

Soon a delicious odour was arising. 
And then we had a feast! 


WHILST I was in 'Frisco I had the honour 
of suping with Sarah Bernhardt. She 
played a season at the Baldwin Theatre, 
and I, along with others, got the princely 
allowance of fifty cents, a night for sup- 
porting her in " Theodora." We played 
slaves and nobles and gladiators and circus- 
riders and other things Roman. I re- 
member on one occasion having the felicity 
of standing quite near to the divine Sarah 
in the right second entrance. I was 
dressed up as a slave, and was getting 
ready to follow some Roman nobles who 
were marching on to the stage as if they 
owned it. I looked quite critically at the 
great actress to see if she were as thin as 
report said. She was not. I suppose she 
had picked up somewhat. 

How I " Ran Props ' 309 

This was after I had got to 'Frisco from 
touring through California with the opera 
company. I had no money, for the genial 
manager had told me in his most tactful 
manner that he would pay me what he 
owed me when things looked up a little. 
Thus I had to take on suping. 

Soon after this I got an engagement to 
sing ballads in the Eureka Music Hall 
on Kearney Street. They were rather 
generous to me here in the way of ad- 
vertisement, for on one side of the pro- 
gramme I was announced as the " Cele- 
brated Tenor," while on the other side I 
was announced as the " Celebrated Bari- 
tone." Here I sang for a month. 

When I left I was at once engaged 
by a third - rate actor to play heavy 
business for him villains, and such like. 
This actor wanted to star through the 
country, for he had come to the conclu- 
sion that he was great. This is a con- 
clusion that all actors arrive at. 

He was rather a character, this actor. 
He had the keenest sense of self-value I 
have ever met in anyone. As he deftly 

310 A Man Adrift 

and pointedly put it : " If I only get a 
chance I'll paralyse the earth." 

With sorrow I am compelled to state 
that I did not suit the actor's requirements. 
I looked the part of a villain, he averred, 
and I read my lines like one, but well, 
it was my walk he objected to. Alas, I 
still had the walk of a sailor. The roll of 
the ship had not yet got out of my gait. 
And a stage villain had, above all, to have 
a steady and commanding walk. I lost 
the engagement. 

However, I was luckier with Jim Wessels, 
the melodramatic actor. Whenever Jim 
spoke the scenes trembled. He was what 
was known as the scene-chewing type of 
actor. He went in for producing unsubtle, 
broad effects. 

He gave me a part in " The Danites," 
not because I could act, but because I had 
a good loud voice. The man who had 
been playing the part was most artistic 
in his make-up and conception of the char- 
acter, but his voice could hardly be heard 
past the footlights. At a pinch I could 
be heard outside the theatre, and though 

How I " Ran Props' 311 

I was atrociously bad as an actor I was 
given the part to play. 

The next thing I did was to sing chorus 
in the Grand Opera House on Mission 
Street. Campanini came to San Francisco 
to put on a series of grand operas. He 
had with him Scalchi, Repetto, Baldini, 
Antonio Galassi, and other artistes, in- 
cluding Gore, the conductor from La Scala. 

We the chorus singers had to rehearse 
for a month before the operas were actually 
put on, and this was a trying time for us, 
for we were nearly all hard up. We were 
paid nothing for the rehearsals. 

The first opera, " Rigoletto," was a fiasco 
as far as the chorus was concerned. In 
the opening chorus Gore did not give us 
the sign to attack, and the result was that 
not one of us opened our mouths to sing. 
We looked like dummies neither useful 
nor ornamental. When the curtain went 
down on the first act Galassi turned round 
to us fiercely and shouted, " What for you 
no cantante ? " As his eye seemed to meet 
mine, I shouted back at him, " Why didn't 
Gore give us the cue?" Galassi was a 

312 A Man Adrift 

towering big man, and he looked as if he 
were going to come for me. 

It turned out afterwards that Gore for- 
got himself, and thought he was conduct- 
ing at La Scala. We were told that there 
a conductor never gives the sign to the 
chorus to attack. They are supposed to 
know when to come in themselves. This 
plan, of course, is all right when the chorus 
has had a sufficient number of rehearsals. 

All I got out of this engagement was 
fifteen dollars. 

About this time the climate of California 
lost for me its rare and subtle beauty. I 
longed to go Eastward. But how? I 
was thirty-six hundred miles away from 
New York. And big obstacles met me at 
every point, for very few companies that 
left 'Frisco for New York ever wanted 
people. It looked as though it were my 
fate to become a permanent Californian, 
when an engagement was offered me. It 
was to sing in a quartette at the Alcazar 
Theatre, where Ned Harrigan, a famous 
exponent of character - comedy, had just 
arrived from New York to put on his own 

How I cc Ran Props * 313 

pieces. He wanted singers, and I was 

During his stay in the town, which 
lasted eight weeks, he took a liking to 
me, and his manager intimated to me that 
I could go with the company, if I wished, 
as Harrigan was going to play his way 
across the Continent to New York. A 
thrill of delight suffused me. But, alas ! 
there was a codicil, so to speak, to the 
contract. It was this: I had to "run 
props." At that time I had only a vague 
notion of what running props meant, but 
an instinct told me that it was something 
with very little of a soft snap in it. My 
ardour was dampened considerably, but I 
had had a surfeit of the gilded climate, 
and therefore decided to accept this iron- 
clad engagement. 

Oh, if I had only known then what I 
knew afterwards, I would have stayed in 
California till the golden sun had covered 
me with gilt before I would have taken 
such an engagement. It was only by a 
miracle that I ever got to New York. A 
hundred times I was on the point of leav- 

314 A Man Adrift 

ing, owing to the nature of my work. It 
was, indeed, an unthankful, an ungrateful, 
and a tough task. I became everyone's 
bitter foe. Fellows who hobnobbed with 
me, and who drank my beer in 'Frisco, 
now looked upon me as their natural 

The company consisted of twenty -six 
people, and in addition to my duties as a 
property-man, I had to look after all the 
baggage and scenery, for we carried no 
carpenters. We would get into a town, 
say, at ten o'clock in the morning. The 
stage-manager who, by the way, was a 
very good fellow named Charles and I 
would go together and get a stiff drink to 
prepare us for the day's ordeal, while the 
star would immediately hie him to the 
hotel to sleep. The rest of the company 
would either follow his example, or stand 
around on the principal street mashing the 
girls. Of course, as Charles and I were 
but human, we naturally envied the easy 
time they had compared to ours, and, as 
they invariably grumbled at us in the night 
time when we were running the scenes 

How I 'Ran Props' 315 

and properties of the performance, we 
anathematised them roundly over our fra- 
ternal drinks. After we had quenched 
our thirst and eased our feelings, we would 
go to the theatre, or rather hall, where I 
would interview the property-man, while 
the indomitable Charles interviewed the 
proprietor or carpenter, or whatever he 
was, about the scenes we had to use that 
night. After Charles had seen that sapient 
individual, he would mark off the dressing- 

The party whom I interviewed was 
usually a man or boy who worked at some 
other business, and who got off on that 
particular day to help me to get the 
properties. It is needless to say that his 
lack of knowledge concerning things 
theatrical would fill libraries. He would 
try to make up for this lack by boundless 
enthusiasm for the stage. I would give 
him a list of the indispensable properties, 
but, alas ! not more than half of them 
showed up when the shades of night fell, 
and I alone had to bear the brunt of the 
star's fury when he found them missing. 

316 A Man Adrift 

After Charles and I had got through 
our interviewing we would go out and get 
a little more courage, and await develop- 
ments. They would come in the shape 
of the gentry we had just interviewed. 
They expected us to treat them. I need 
hardly say that the management never 
allowed us treating expenses. 

In time night would come, and then 
would come our sorrows. The first 
grumble would be about dressing-rooms, 
and I don't wonder at it, for the noble 
knights of the sock and buskin had had 
such an easy time during the day that 
dressing in those stuffy little rooms injured 
their feelings. Where they made the mis- 
take to my mind was in imagining that 
Charles and I were magicians who could, 
by some occult power, transform the little 
holes into large, commodious, airy spaces, 
where they could keep up in a fitting 
manner the atmosphere of luxurious ease 
in which they had revelled during the day. 
However, I must say that we would meet 
their disapproval with a vast amount of 
stoicism. In fact, we would make little 

How I " Ran Props' 1 317 

forcible remarks to them that were calcu- 
lated to heighten it. 

Then the star would begin, but, to tell 
the honest truth, his starship was less 
of a grumbler than any of them, for he 
only grumbled from an artistic standpoint. 
He would stand in the entrance during a 
performance and upbraid me in scathing 
terms for my dilatory and stupid ways. He 
would analyse and expound the value of 
properties to actors and the acting art. 
He would say that I killed his piece ; in 
fact, he would show up my shortcomings 
in a vivid and powerful manner. He 
played the part of on old, rum-soaked bum 
his own creation and he played it well. 
It was wonderful to see the way in which 
he would arise from his bumliness and 
denounce me the moment he left the stage 
for not having his hand-props in the right 

One night, in St Paul, Minnesota, the 
star discharged me for missing "crashes," 
and telling him to retire to the " Cimmerian 
depths of Hades." I didn't classicise 
the phrase, but gave it out to him in strong 

318 A Man Adrift 

Saxon. I was beginning to be tired of 
the whole business. A man can't hold hot 
iron for ever. But the manager interposed 
and it ended in my being forgiven after the 

But all things have an end, and after 
many trials, tribulations, and, I might add, 
vituperations, I arrived in New York. 
My ideal was realised. I had got to the 
cold, muggy East. 


THE Bowery is the main artery of the east 
side of New York. Along it move the 
people who dwell in poverty. It is the 
promenade of the doomed the breathing 
spot for those that live in the gloom. 
The atmosphere seems charged with 
something that no one shall define. The 
people possess a grim sense of humour, 
but it is the humour of recklessness that 
terrible humour that has moved the Paris 
gamin to make history. There is a differ- 
ence, subtle, but distinct, between the 
crowd that moves along the Bowery and 
the crowds that move along like places in 
Old World great cities.- The difference 
lies in the fact that here you will find 
a suggestion of blending, of fraternisation 
of race. You will find cosmopolitanism. 
There is a feverish activity everywhere. 

320 A Man Adrift 

You are behind the scenes in the theatre 
of New World civilisation. Refuse barrels 
stand on corners. Here the street is torn 
up for repairs. The elevated trains rush 
and puff ; horses stumble and clatter ; carts 
crunch and rumble along. The shriek of 
the locomotive and the jangle of horse-car 
bells mingle. Drivers swear. 

Here the policeman stalks along swing- 
ing his club. He is monarch of all he 
surveys the rajah of the street. He has 
been known to club people into insensi- 
bility and afterwards arrest them for 
obstructing his club. He possesses the 
contempt for the liberty of the pedestrian 
that belongs peculiarly to the American 
policeman. As a rule he is an offensive 
blackguard and bully who is skilled in the 
fine art of levying blackmail. But he is 
human after all. He has been known to 
give hard-up men money wherewith to get 
food and shelter. He is the ornament of 
the Bowery. His buttons shine beauti- 
fully. His club, though hard, is nicely 

A black-eyed, sinewy Italian presides 

The Bowery 321 

over a fruit-stand. The land of the glorious 
sun and the sparkling waters he has left 
for ever behind. He is seeking his 
fortune in the Cosmopolis. Sliced pine- 
apples, oranges, pears and fruits of all kinds 
cover his stall. His shirt is open because 
of the heat, and he is dreaming, dozing, as 
the life whirls by. A tender expression is 
softening the lines of his bronzed face. 
Memories, perhaps, of the long ago are 
awakening within him. Let us draw near ! 
Ah, he is humming softly an aria from "II 
Trovatore ! " He is in the Scala of Milan 
listening, perhaps, to Pifferini or Cam- 
panini Pifferini, who on some nights sang 
like an angel, who on other nights could 
not sing at all. 

Here is a picture that is beautiful. 
Johnnie is making love to Mamie in a 
doorway. Johnnie drives an express 
waggon for ten dollars a week, and 
Mamie well, Mamie works in a cigar 
factory. Neither of them has ever lived 
outside the East Side of New York. This 
may be seen at a glance. The girl's eyes 
are cast shyly down, while Johnnie presses 

322 A Man Adrift 

close up to her, and tells her, perhaps, that 
he can marry her next fall, because he 
expects a rise in his salary. They are 
drinking the first delicious draughts of love. 
Heedless are they of the people in the 
passing crowd who stare at them. 

There saunters the working man, who 
labours many hours a day so that he may 
eat bread. He wears a starched shirt and 
a neat suit of clothes, but you can tell what 
he is at a glance. The weary look in the 
face and the droop of the shoulders speak 
it more plainly than words. 

Look at the Irishwoman with the basket. 
She is walking along the Bowery to the 
store where she gets her provisions for her 
family. She has a handkerchief tied 
around her head, and a look of shrewd 
bargaining is in her face. She might have 
dropped here from Galway. Shrewd bar- 
gaining and close figuring are the only 
methods by which she can make ends meet. 
When one has four or five little children at 
home, and a husband who earns but a dollar 
and a quarter a day, it is necessary to look 
closely after the pennies. Again, Pat 

The Bowery 323 

receives no wages from the contractor 
when he has to stop work on account of 
the rain. And if he doesn't work harder 
than the Italian alongside of him, he is apt 
to be fired from his job. Also, he needs ten 
cents for his growler of beer every night. 

Up comes the ward politician. He is 
jolly looking of face and big and tight of 
girth. His smile is knowing and satisfied, 
for he revels in the fat of the land. A 
diamond flashes from his shirt front, his 
pockets are filled with money, and his taste 
in dress is loud. His heelers get in his 
way to catch his smiles. This is the man 
who will tell you that money talks. He 
knows as much about our present social 
system as Herbert Spencer and all the 
thinkers and writers upon sociology put 
together. He gets the above system down 
fine and stands upon it for his own 
benefit. His method has the merit 
of being simple. So simple that it 
needn't be discussed. Still, in a way, 
he is a good fellow that is, if things go 
his way. He possesses magnetism enough 
to become either a successful bunco-steerer, 

324 A Man Adrift 

or an after-dinner orator who is eloquent in 
the interests of trusts. Politics, however, 
pay him better. His especial virtue is that 
he always buys the drinks. In fact, this 
is the chief secret of his simple method of 
running the affairs of this great city. 

Fakers stand on the corners of the 
streets. They are selling laces, hand- 
kerchiefs, cheap jewellery, the useful, 
though modest, suspender, and other things 
too numerous to mention. They thrust the 
articles towards you as you pass. Won- 
drous bargains may be procured for a no- 
thing. So says the faker. And the faker 
where does he hail from ? He hails from 
all spots. In fact, he is like the passing 
crowd. His home is wherever he hangs 
his hat. He may be a wily Greek who 
has descended in a direct line from the 
divinely subtle Socrates ; he may be 
a Jew who is a descendant of a black 
sheep of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel ; 
or he may be a ward politician whose 
magnetism has gone back on him, and 
who is certainly descended from an Irish 

The Bowery 325 

Here are the dime museums, where 
you can see everything from a mammoth 
to a protoplasm on payment of ten cents. 
And the gaudy, brilliant fronts of the 
cheap theatres. In them you may sit and 
gaze while the blood-and-thunder drama 
unrolls itself. 

So life goes on in the Bowery. 


At night I used to wander along the 
Bowery and think over things. I had a 
small room in the top of an old house 
that lay in a street just off it. This 
house had been built in colonial times, 
and about it was an odd, desolate air. 

I had left the stage long ago. I re- 
cognised that I had no talent in that 

I used to cook for myself in the garret 
where I lived. Whenever I managed to 
get a little money I would lay in a stock 
of provisions at the delicatessen shop 
across the road. 

I was getting tired of America. Its 
air of blatant, sham democracy disgusted 
me. When labouring men were struggling 

326 A Man Adrift 

for the right to live they were shot and 
crushed down by the military with more 
mercilessness and for less provocation than 
they would be under the most despotic 
and ruthless Government in Europe. If 
any American takes exception to this 
statement I can only ask him if he has 
forgotten the affair at Homestead, and 
the hideous travesty of justice concerning 
the alleged Anarchists in Chicago, and 
other like instances. I have known people 
to get a year's imprisonment in New York 
for saying things that they might" say 
with impunity in Hyde Park in London. 
In fact, the English policeman would not 
allow them to be interrupted while they 
were giving forth their ideas. I am not 
saying that England is a perfect place 
to live in. That, of course, would be 
nonsense. But I do say, from personal 
and absolute knowledge, that England is 
a freer and more democratic country than 
is America. 

I was beginning to long to go back 
again to England. After all, it was the 
place I had come from. And, above all, I 

The Bowery 327 

longed to go to London. I wanted to try 
my luck there. The idea of being in the 
world's great town fascinated me. 

I could easily have managed to go to 
England as a sailor, but somehow I did 
not care for the idea. So I managed to 

get myself a steerage ticket. 

* * * * * 

I was sorry afterwards that I had not 
gone as a sailor, for we had heavy weather 
crossing the Atlantic, and necessarily the 
steerage passengers were kept* below. 
Thus the air of the steerage became bad 
because of the impossibility of opening up 
hatchways and port-holes. 

I found there were other sailors beside 
myself in the steerage. They were the 
crews of three sailing ships. They had 
been paid off in New York, and their 
idea was to go to Liverpool so that they 
could ship to Australia. They were a 
jolly lot of lads, and I was glad to be 
with them. They brought me into touch 
with the old times. One of them especi- 
ally was a most interesting character. He 
had followed the sea for twenty years, and 

328 A Man Adrift 

knew of hardly anything save ports and 
the ways of ships and grog-shops. His 
name was Myles Hand, and he hailed 
from Liverpool. He was the ideal 
English sailor, the type that Marry at 
immortalized. He was well able to sing 
and dance, and in person he was well 
built of frame, good looking of face, and 
had blue, well-opened eyes. The eyes 
of sailors are always well opened. The 
looking out and the continual watching 
causes this. 

When we were near the end of the 
voyage I got up a concert, and put Myles' 
name first on the programme. The 
writing of this programme was a great 
bother to me, because of the rolling of 
the ship. When it was finished Myles 
got some mustard from the steward and 
plastered it up. Then he stood off, and 
looked at his own name admiringly. I 
had put him down for a baritone solo. 

At last we were running up the Mersey, 
and Liverpool was coming up in the 
distance. After years had passed I was 
seeing it again. I was glad to see it, 

The Bowery 329 

even though I was poor as when I left 
it. I had gathered nothing but experi- 

And the next day I started for London. 


THE hour of midnight tolls out and 
London becomes strange and quiet It 
becomes at once alive and dead. The 
people leave its streets. And soon there 
is nothing left but shadows. Gigantic, 
weird shadows. Nameless shadows of 
the past and present. Monstrous, chang- 
ing, weaving. 

In the waters of the old river are re- 
flections of a strange and glorious beauty 
mingling with shadows foul, black, and 
unspeakable. Terrifying shadows. For- 
bidding, louring ; and waving and moving 
into frightful shapes. 

London of the shadow. Formless, dis- 
torted London. Silence, blackness and 
dim light unite. Everything is vague, 
uncertain, and elusive. Here is mystery. 

No Place to Sleep 331 

Here is darkness and sadness and the 

London in shadow. 

And you walk on on your footsteps 
sounding lone and strange. It is as 
if you were in some vast, deserted city 
some mighty, ghost-haunted labyrinth. 

Boom ! 

The great bell breaks forth, marking 
the hour of one. Mighty is the tone, full 
of menace and sullen power. It voices 
the genius of the great English nation 
that dominant genius that has crushed 
and colonised, that has spread itself 
wherever wind blows or water dashes. 

Sweeping goes the tone of the great 
bell over hovel and palace over the black 
sullen waters over destitution and mag- 
nificence and misery. 

It startles the poor miserables who to- 
night have no place to sleep. Those who 
are adrift. They sit up on the benches 
where they have been lying. They 
shudder. The great brazen tone is full 
of menace for them. 

They are poor human shadows. They 

332 A Man Adrift 

come from out of the great black, sinister 
shadow of the town. They are ghosts 
of wrecked lives. There is no one to 
help them. There is no one to give 
them shelter. There' is no one to give 
them warmth or food or love. They are 
lost. They are but shadows. 

Why have they to starve and shiver in 
the midst of plenty ? Over yonder is a 
palace wherein a thousand such as these 
might be housed. Over yonder is a 
church mark you ! a church ! wherein 
shelter might be had. What would 
Christ say to this? 

But Christ is dead. 

And you think that if Christ lived now 
in this Christian civilisation He would 
mayhap be lying yonder starved and 
hungry and cold. Yonder under the 
shadow of the Sphinx. 

Two! The bell has broken forth. 
And you turn up from the river and walk 
towards the Strand. 

How quiet it is, this Strand. In the 
daytime it is filled with an ever-flowing 
tide of humans. They rush and hurry 

No Place to Sleep 333 

along, and lounge and idle along. Horses, 
vans, and cabs and carts clatter, crunch, 
and rumble along. There is hurry and 
bustle and excitement. 

But now is the Strand dead. It is 
under the dominion of the shadows. 
No one is to be seen. Nothing is to be 
heard but your own footfalls. 

You go back to the river. The dark, 
strange old river. How black are the 
shadows. And you stop and think. 
Soon it will be light. Soon it will 
be day. But meanwhile are shadows. 
Shadows. Working in the loom af fate 
Monstrous, changing, weaving. 


To be in a great town at night and to 
have no place to sleep is hard. You 
look around. On all sides are houses 
where people are resting comfortably in 
bed. But there is no bed for you. So 
you wander through the streets aimlessly. 
How cold everything is! How cold is 
human nature. Here is luxury and com- 
fort on all sides. Food in plenty is here, 
but you may not touch it. Warmth is 

334 A Man Adrift 

here. Rest is here. But you must go 
on. Ever on. Like one who is doomed 
or damned. 

You are an outcast, because you are 
guilty of that crime of crimes poverty. 
And you begin to think and to wish 
many strange things. Aye, you think, 
it matters not if you be the dullest 
clod. For suffering and loneliness breed 

Perhaps you will sit down on a bench, 
but you may not sit for long. The 
policeman will come and order you to 
move on. Move on! Where? 

Perhaps you will summon up courage 
enough to ask a passer-by for alms. 
It is better for you not to do so, how- 
ever, for the chance of your getting any- 
thing is small. And you may be given 
in charge. 

So you move on. 

And your life will arise before you. 
You will think of the good times you 
have had. You will think of your future, 
but you will not think of your future long 
for the present is too real and pressing. 

No Place to Sleep 335 

Of course it is all your own fault. It 
always is one's own fault when luck goes 
against one. It is always one's own fault 
for being struck down. You should have 
been strong enough to stand up. 

You should have done such and such 
a thing at such and such a time. You 
had no right to back that fellow's bill ; 
or you had no right to leave that job be- 
cause the foreman bullied you ; or you 
but you stop. What is the use of think- 
ing in this strain ? It doesn't help you 
one bit. You are here in the dark streets, 
and no one cares whether you live or 

The bells ring out the hours. Time 
has for you a significance it never had 
before. It will be all right in a hundred 
years from now, you think. You will 
be dead then, and will not care. You 
will have plenty of rest. You will be 
allowed to sleep. You will be as fine 
a man then as a king. You will really 
count for as much. 

A hundred years from now. But what 
a long time till then! 

336 A Man Adrift 

And it may be that you will wander 
by the palace where lives the Queen. 
How fine and grand is this palace ! how 
spacious must be the rooms ! Herein a 
thousand like you might sleep. Can it 
be, you will think, that there is a differ- 
ence in human blood after all? Philo- 
sophers say that there is not, but surely 
there must be. Philosophers don't know 
everything. Their logic is all very well 
when you have wine, a good cigar, and a 
bright fire before which to thrust your 
feet. But it counts for nothing when you 
are hungry, when you have no place to 

And it may be that the face of a woman 
will arise before you a woman who loved 
you in the old days. What would she say 
if she saw you in this plight ? Why, her 
dear heart would break. She would take 
you to her arms, unkempt and begrimed 
though you are. She would kiss you, 
and cheer you up, and make you feel a 
man again. Dear, sweet love of the fine 
old days ! 

But she is dead. 

No Place to Sleep 337 

And so you go on and on, and listen 
to the bells as they strike the hours. 
They are the only friends you have, cold 
though their voices are, for they do not 
blame you for being unfortunate as man 
blames you. No, they pay no heed. You 
are the same to them as any other man. 
They are impartial. And of all things 
misfortune loves impartiality. It is a finer 
thing than sympathy. 

Dear old bells ! I love them, for it has 
been my lot to wander at dead of night 
through a great city because I had no 
money to pay for a bed. And I assert 
that no man knows what it is without 
he has experienced it. I have heard 
sympathetic, well-off people talk feelingly 
of the hardships of the poor. I have 
heard them in drawing-rooms. 

Yes, these people talk, but they don't 
know what they are talking about. And 
they are not really sympathetic with the 
poor. They only think they are. No 
one has any real sympathy with the poor 
but the poor. There is something in class 
after all. If you are a tramp and a gaol- 

338 A Man Adrift 

bird, it is better for you to chum in wit> 
tramps and gaol-birds. They won't patro 
nise you and hurt your feelings. Yes- 
class is the thing. Keep to your class. 

Sometimes it is said that low-down, un 
fortunate people don't realize to the ful 
the degradation of their lives. 

This is a lie. These poor people do 
realize their degradation. They realize 
that they are dogs and slaves, but their 
way of saying that they know they are 
dogs and slaves is not what is called an 
elegant way. It is not a drawing-room 
way. It is the way that smacks of the 
slum, and the foul alley, and the gaol, and 
the gutter. And, after all, one way of 
saying the same thing is much the same 
as another way. There isn't as big a 
difference between illiterate and literate 
people as is generally supposed. Illiterate 
people are on the whole more intelligent 
than literate people because they are 
brought more in touch with the iron facts 
of life. 

Yes, the poor homeless man who walks 
the streets at night is forced to think, even 

No Place to Sleep 339 

if he be ever such a clod. And he is 
forced to think hard. And he knows 
more about what walking the streets 
means than even the most sympathetic 
upholder of charitable organisations. 

A word as to charitable organisations. 

They are no good. At least, I, who 
have had need of them, have found them 
to be no good. And the proof of the 
pudding is in the eating. 

Yes, I assert that they are no good. 
This statement is sweeping but listen to 
a cold fact. If you are hungry and 
homeless, and apply to one of them for 
relief from misery they will do nothing 
for you. I know what I am talking about, 
for I have applied to them. 

Of course, there is an excellent reason 
for their not helping the destitute, just as 
there is an excellent reason for everything. 

The destitute man may not have a satis- 
factory pedigree ; he may be a criminal ; 
he may be undeserving ; he may be just 
a hair's-breadth beyond their alleged scope 
of action. Again, he may not possess a 
spotless reputation. To get help from a 

340 A Man Adrift 

charitable organisation you must possess 
a spotless reputation. You must be good 
and -worthy, and able to stand searching 

And, above all, you must be able to fast 
and do without sleep for a month after 
your application. 

Still, it is an ill wind that blows nobody 
good. The charity organisations provide 
fat salaries for the officials who run them. 

If you are ever destitute, steer clear of 
them ; for if they do take you in and give 
you a piece of bread, they will take more 
than the worth of it out of you. It is 
much better for you to go out on the 

They talk of the cloven hoof of wicked- 
ness, but I tell you it is as nothing compared 
with the iron heel of organised charity. 

No, if a man ever asks you for four- 
pence for his night's lodging, give it to 
him if you can. Even though you feel 
almost sure that he'll go and get a drink 
with it. Supposing he does. What then ? 
Doesn't the poor chap need a drink to 
cheer him up a little? See, he is dirty 

No Place to Sleep 341 

and hungry and half-starved and badly 
clothed. He is worse off than a homeless 
dog. No one has any use for him. But 
remember that he has feelings, that he has 
a heart, that he has red blood just like you 
have. He may have been a man who 
once held a good position. Or he may 
have but never mind what he was. It 
is what he is. He is a man who needs 
help. Christ would have helped him and 
asked no questions. Do thou likewise. 

People often say than any man can get 
work if he wishes to work. This is false. 
The army of unemployed increases day by 
day. I am not going to argue as to why 
this is. I only state a fact. 

No, give the poor fellow fourpence, and 
give him the price of a drink if you can 
spare it. And you will be doing an act of 
which Christ would have approved. 

The hardest time of all for a homeless 
man, who is tramping the dark streets, 
is at about half-past two in the morning. 
Then everything is dead quiet. The city 
sleeps. Its great rumble has gone down 
altogether. The tramp of the policeman, 

342 A Man Adrift 

as he goes from house to house trying the 
doors, seems to make the loneliness all 
the more lonely. The poor outcast must 
keep out of the policeman's way, for the 
policeman is his enemy. 

The policeman is the embodiment of the 
humanity of our civilisation. 

Aye, this is indeed a hard time for the 
outcast. His vitality is at its lowest ebb. 
He would give his soul to lie down and 
sleep, even on the pavement. But he 
may not do so. He must move on. 

He must move on. 

And at last dawn breaks. 


This book is due on the last DATE stamped below. 



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